Kennard confident he can defend in NBA

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Luke Kennard reflects on his NBA Draft experience

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Getting stronger will help him on both sides of the ball, he says

Coach Stan Van Gundy plans to have a talk soon with the newest member of the Detroit Pistons, Franklin High School graduate Luke Kennard, about defense. He didn’t have that chat Thursday after Kennard was drafted or Friday before Kennard spoke at an introductory press conference at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

“We’re going to wait on that,” Van Gundy said with a laugh. “Today’s a day of celebration.”

“It’ll come,” Kennard said.

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The Pistons know what kind of offensive player the 6-foot-5 guard Kennard is. That's the biggest reason they drafted him 12th in the first round. He scored 1,147 points in two seasons with the Duke Blue Devils. He ranks second in Ohio high school history with 2,977 points.

Kennard’s defense is a bigger question mark. Even he knows that. He’s also confident he can become the defender the Pistons need.

“I’m a very confident player,” Kennard said. “I learned that over my career so far just wanting to play defense is a big thing for me. One of the things I want to improve on is strength. That’ll help me offensively and defensively. I have improved on it. I’m continuing to do that. I think that’ll help me a lot.”

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Kennard’s defense doesn’t worry Van Gundy because he had the same question marks with 18 of the first 20 players taken in the first round. There were no perfect players in his mind.

“Every single guy on the board, even from the first pick on down, has red flags,” Van Gundy said. “The number of guys that are great offensive players in college that really apply themselves defensively is a very small number. I’ve watched them all. This is a common theme. It’s not like, ‘Wow, all these other guys really get after it defensively. Why did you take this guy who doesn’t guard?’”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Luke Kennard's father Mark talk's about today's big day

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The strong offensive players, like Kennard, don’t dominate on the defensive end in college, Van Gundy said, in part because they carry such a big load on the offensive end. Kennard averaged 19.5 points and 2.5 assists per game as a sophomore.

“Luke carried a huge offensive load,” Van Gundy said. “What he did was pretty incredible. This guy had two unbelievable years.”

MORE: Franklin ‘couldn’t ask for better ambassador’ than Luke Kennard

Kennard credited Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for turning him into the player he is today and also praised Van Gundy, a veteran coach who will pick up where Krzyzewski left off when Kennard turned pro in April.

“I learned something new from (Krzyzewski) every day on and off the court,” Kennard said. “He was hard on me. He was always talking to me, always teaching me. I’m successful in an environment like that. To be play for a coach who approaches things in a similar way, I think I can be really successful. I’m looking forward to learning from (Van Gundy) because he’s a teacher of the game. I’m excited to be a part of that atmosphere.”

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The Pistons needed a scorer. Their top scorer last season, Tobias Harris, averaged 16.1 points per game. Van Gundy sees Kennard as a classic two guard.

“The flexibility that Luke provides is he’s a play-maker,” Van Gundy said. “Luke is not just a spot-up shooter. One of the issues we’ve had is we haven’t had a lot of secondary ball-handlers on the floor. It’s really fallen to our point guards to make all the plays off the dribble. With Luke, that won’t be the case. You can put the ball in his hands, and he can make plays for himself and other people.”

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