Franklin (Ohio) standout Kennard possesses multitude of skills

ablondin@thesunnews.comDecember 29, 2013 

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

If you’re impressed with the 45 points left-handed shooting Luke Kennard scored in Franklin (Ohio) High’s Beach Ball Classic opening win Friday against Mullins, you should see him throw a football.

He does that well enough to have a standing scholarship offer from University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong.

And he does that right-handed.

Needless to say, the 6-foot-4 junior has some talent.

“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player to coach really, for our school, our program and our community,” Franklin coach Brian Bales said.

Because Kennard has yet to commit to a college, he’s likely the reason Duke assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski was sitting courtside at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center during Franklin’s second-round game against Bishop Loughlin (N.Y.) on Saturday.

Kennard has narrowed his list of basketball finalists to Duke, North Carolina, Ohio State, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan and Florida, and he hopes to make a decision no later than this summer.

Kennard is averaging about 38 points, nine rebounds and five assists per game through eight games this season, and his Wildcats are 7-1. He’s a deadly shooter with deep range both off a pass or dribble, is quick enough to get to the basket and has the strength and leaping ability to finish. And of course he can use his left or right hand as needed.

“A lot of it is just God-given talent. I’ve been blessed with that,” Kennard said. “Through all that I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to put that time into all those things. I like to put in a lot of work and focus on what I need to get better. It takes up time, but it’s all worth it in the end.”

As for the ambidextrous ability? Part of it can be explained by his father Mark, who played basketball at Georgetown (Ky.) College, and his mother Jennifer, who played three sports in high school, forcing him to develop his right hand in basketball at an early age. They went to the extreme of tying his left hand so he couldn’t use it.

“When he was in first or second grade he was all left-handed as far as dribbling,” Mark said. “When we’d work out when he was small, we worked hard on his right hand.

“Now, as far as throwing [with his right hand], I don’t know where he gets all that.”

Kennard threw right-handed and batted left-handed while playing baseball through sixth grade.

As a sophomore at the Beach Ball last year, Kennard was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after posting 43 points in a game to tie Kobe Bryant for the now sixth-most points in a game in tournament history, and 97 points in the event for the seventh-best three-game total in tournament history. His 45 points are tied for the second most with Mike Bibby, who also holds the record of 48.

He’s averaging more than 31.4 points per game in his five Beach Ball contests despite being held to 15 points and double-teamed just about every time he touched the ball by Bishop Loughlin, and has a game remaining against Moeller (Ohio) scheduled for 1:45 p.m. Monday.

The Wildcats are 48-6 during Kennard’s two-plus years on varsity, including three Beach Ball losses.

Bales recalls the practice earlier this year the day after Kennard set the school record with 51 points. “Some guys, maybe they come in and kind of take off,” Bales said. “But the thing that makes him special is the next day he came in and won every drill, he won every sprint, he was our most vocal guy and our hardest-working guy in practice. That’s the day after he scored 51 and set the single-game scoring record.

“That’s why he’s where he’s at. The other kids respond to that. That’s why his teammates love playing with him.”

Kennard means more to the Franklin community, which supports a high school with about 800 students, than wins and losses on athletic fields and courts.

He is a visible role model for young children in the community, and spends much of the minimal free time he has attending youth league games.

“Our community has really embraced him because he goes to a lot of the little pee wee league games and really encourages these kids … and he plays around with them,” Mark said. “He’s always been like that and the kids just love him. It’s really neat to see him giving back.”

In football, Kennard set school single-season records for touchdowns and passing yards, and career records for completions and passes attempted in his junior year.

In addition to his Louisville offer in football, Kennard has been contacted by other universities interested in him playing on the gridiron. But those efforts by coaches are likely in vain.

“I like basketball a lot more,” Kennard said. “I have a great time with football. I like playing it. But right now I think my main focus in college is basketball.”

Kennard has his choice of college basketball programs because of both his talent and academic prowess. He’s a National Honor Society student with a grade-point average above 4.0.

“You have to put school first, always, and I do,” Kennard said. “That’s my No. 1 priority before sports. That’s a big key for me to have my grades up high.”

Kennard still has the rest of his junior year and full senior year to continue working to improve his already impressive grades and skills.

“He enjoys being a kid, but he’s also looking forward to getting to the next level, too,” Mark said. “That’s what he’s working so hard for.”

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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