Kennard thrilled to be close to home with Pistons

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Luke Kennard reflects on his NBA Draft experience

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Franklin grad drafted 12th overall in the first round

Among the many small details from the NBA Draft, Jennifer Kennard will remember the Cheetos. Luke Kennard’s mom survived a tense but thrilling evening by snacking at the table Thursday at the Barclays Center.

There were also granola bars and other items for the draft prospects and their families, and when the Detroit Pistons selected the Franklin High School graduate Kennard with the 12th pick of the first round in Brooklyn, N.Y., he didn’t appear to have orange-stained fingers. Maybe that’s because he knows what to do on the big stage. Playing the last two seasons for the Duke Blue Devil prepared him for that.

RELATED: Social media reacts to Kennard to Pistons

However, this was a new experience that tested even the calm Kennard.

“I was kind of holding his hand a little bit,” Jennifer said, “and you could feel the nerves. His hands were kind of cold and clammy.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Jennifer, Luke and Luke’s girlfriend, reality TV star Savannah Chrisley, didn’t want to know who was picking Luke until NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced it on stage. They didn’t look at their text messages or listen to voicemails. Luke’s dad Mark told Luke’s agent, Aaron Mintz, to call him with the news. Mark kept his back to his family when he did get the news so his face wouldn’t give it away.

“When it comes to this, we wanted to be surprised,” Jennifer said. “But when you hear that name, you’re just like, ‘Thank God.’”

RELATED: What to know about Luke Kennard

A day after the big surprise, the Kennards flew to Luke's new home city, Detroit, for an introductory press conference at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday. Pistons General Manager Jeff Bower and head coach Stan Van Gundy sat on his side as he answered questions. Here are five highlights from his first press conference with the Pistons:

1. Hometown love: Kennard mentioned Franklin right away in his opening comments. Later, he expanded on how growing up there prepared him for this moment.

“I love Franklin,” Kennard said. “I’m excited to get back there and see my friends. It’s a special place. It kept me grounded through this entire journey.”

2. Short drive: Franklin is 227 miles from Detroit, or about a 3½-hour drive. If Kennard had been drafted one spot higher, he would have played in Charlotte, not far from his college home, Duke, but a long way from his hometown. If he had slipped to 13th, he would have played in Denver.

“Ticket sales might go up from my hometown,” Kennard said. “It’ll be awesome to see some familiar faces.”

The Kennards will get used to the drive north on Interstate 75 next season. Mark hopes to get to at least half the games next season, 41 of the 82. He missed only one game at Duke last season.

“It’s been like a dream,” Mark said. “I was never nervous until we got the 10th pick, and we had heard he could go eighth to 14th or 16th. We didn’t know. We saw Detroit. We said, ‘Come on,’ because it’s close to home. When his name was called, it was emotional. It was exciting. It was relief.”

3. Versatile talent: The Pistons liked Kennard's toughness. He got some of that from playing football as well as basketball. He played football until he was a senior in high school.

“I feel I learned a lot from it,” Kennard said. “I felt I could transition some things from the football field to the court. Toughness was one of them. Getting hit every now and then, getting back up, I learned from that.”

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Luke Kennard speaks at a press conference with Pistons General Manager Jeff Bower, left, and head coach Stan Van Gundy, right, at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday, June 23, 2017, in Auburn Hills, Mich. David Jablonski/Staff

Luke Kennard speaks at a press conference with Pistons General Manager Jeff Bower, left, and head coach Stan Van Gundy, right, at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday, June 23, 2017, in Auburn Hills, Mich. David Jablonski/Staff

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Luke Kennard speaks at a press conference with Pistons General Manager Jeff Bower, left, and head coach Stan Van Gundy, right, at The Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday, June 23, 2017, in Auburn Hills, Mich. David Jablonski/Staff

4. Favorite athlete: Kennard said he had never been to Detroit but was familiar with Pistons history. He joins a team that that finished 37-45 last season. The Pistons will move into a new home, Little Caesars Arena, in downtown Detroit for the 2017-18 season.

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

Former Pistons star Tayshaun Prince was his favorite player growing up, Kennard said. He told reporters he wasn’t necessarily a Cleveland Cavaliers fan even though he’s from Ohio.

“I’ve kind of been a LeBron fan,” Kennard admitted.

“Not anymore,” Van Gundy said with a laugh.

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Luke Kennard, center, poses with Pistons General Manager Jeff Bower, left, and head coach Stan Van Gundy on Friday, June 23, 2017, in Detroit.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Luke Kennard, center, poses with Pistons General Manager Jeff Bower, left, and head coach Stan Van Gundy on Friday, June 23, 2017, in Detroit.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

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Luke Kennard, center, poses with Pistons General Manager Jeff Bower, left, and head coach Stan Van Gundy on Friday, June 23, 2017, in Detroit.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

5. Decision explained: The Pistons drafted a player from Duke for the first time since 2011 when they selected Kyle Singler in the second round. Kennard shot 43.8 percent from 3-point range last season for the Blue Devils. The Pistons shot 33 percent as a team, and no one shot better than 38.4 percent.

Kennard’s offensive ability was just one reason the Pistons drafted him.

“Last night’s draft was obviously an opportunity for us to add qualities and characteristics we feel will allow us to move forward,” Bower said. “We think we were successful in that challenge. The board that drives everything in the draft room was one that was built with the hope that Luke would be available to us. We feel fortunate that is indeed how it played out. His skills and abilities and talents and background at Duke and his high-school accomplishments in basketball and football and in many other areas, all bring traits and qualities we feel are important for a team and our team in particular.”

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