The Duke of Ohio

Sharp-shooting Duke commit, Luke Kennard, is flourishing on the summer circuit.
by July 22, 2014

Even though he just finished his junior season, Luke Kennard can’t drive through his hometown of Franklin, OH—a small town of just 12,000 people—without passing at least one sign proudly proclaiming him as a native son.

Kennard, who averaged 40 points per game as a junior—with a season high of 59—doesn’t need to accomplish anything more to elevate his reputation among locals. Ohio’s Mr. Basketball last season, he also shared Ohio’s Division III co-football Player of the Year honors as a quarterback.

“[Mr. Basketball] was a great honor not just for me, but the community,” said Kennard, who can potentially join LeBron James and Jared Sullinger as the only multiple Mr. Basketball winners in state history. “It’s a great award to achieve, and that was one of my goals going into the season. There’s always room to get better, and improve your game somehow. So that’s what I’m focused on right now.”

He’s taken full advantage of the chance to improve his game before his senior year, and beyond, at the Summer Jam in Mequon, WI.

The Duke commit is out to prove he is much more than a lefty sharp-shooter to the amateur basketball world outside of Ohio, and he put the loaded Summer Jam field on notice from the tip Wednesday night.

Against the star-studded Atlanta Celtics in the tourney opener, Kennard dropped 23 points while running with the King James Shooting Stars. He followed up that performance by dominating the Florida Flash in front of his future coach, Mike Krzyzewski, impressing with his ability to guard, crash the glass, finish through contact with his right hand and set teammates up with flashy dimes in transition or on the secondary break.

“I’ve been working on a lot of that stuff—just getting to the basket to create for other players,” Kennard said. “I’m kind of trying to change who I am as a player because I needed to get better at those things for my future. So I working on those things during these games to prepare me for the next level.”

As Kennard continues to hone his craft on the hardwood, the national accolades have continued to pile up. Prior to participating in the LeBron James Skills Academy, Kennard helped Team USA’s U18 squad capture gold in dominating fashion at the FIBA-Americas tournament in Colorado Springs.

Besides representing his country for the first time, he also got to share the court with a pair of future teammates.

“It was great,” Kennard said. “We connected from the beginning. It was a great experience for me, and something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. But also getting to play with Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow, my future Duke teammates, was great because I got to see how they play. They’re great guys and I loved playing with them. The whole thing was a great thing to be a part of.”

Kennard and the King James Shooting Stars advanced all the way through the Summer Jam’s 17’s Platinum Division to the Final Four before bowing out to tourney runner-up Wisconsin United Sunday. With all the star-studded teams at the Summer Jam, winning the whole thing obviously proved to be tough.

But an even more difficult task lies a few weeks ahead for Kennard, whose intangibles and leadership on the court could be credited to his experiences on the gridiron. He has to decide on whether to lace up his cleats in the fall prior to putting his sneakers back on for his final campaign in a Franklin hoops jersey, or not.

“After next week, I’ll decide,” Kennard said. “I’ve been all basketball this whole summer, but all my friends play football. It’s a great school to play football at. It will be a really tough decision for me. Coach K told me it’s totally up to me, but I don’t know yet—it’s something I will pray over, and it will have to click for me.”

Regardless of his choice on his plans for this fall, by the looks of his performance at the Summer Jam the rest of the basketball world will see what Franklin, OH, already knows by the time he’s done in Durham.