Kennard top AP basketball player again
COLUMBUS (AP) — Opponents tried everything to stop Luke Kennard as his team played before packed houses everywhere it went. Fans taunted him. There were long lines of autograph-seekers.
Yet the Franklin shooting star just kept scoring points and winning games.
As a result, he was a less-than-surprising repeat choice — unanimously — on Wednesday as the Ohio Associated Press Mr. Basketball, emblematic of the top boys high school player in the state.
“I got asked all the time, ‘What’s it like?”’ Kennard said of his first year as Mr. Basketball. “I’m just truly blessed. It was a goal of mine as a player. I’m sure that’s true for a bunch of basketball players throughout the state.”
Kennard, a 6-foot-6 senior headed for Duke, becomes the sixth player to win the award at least twice. LeBron James was selected three times, while Kennard joins Jared Sullinger, O.J. Mayo, Greg Simpson and Jim Jackson as a repeat recipient.
“As coaches you’re always grinding, always looking to the next (game),” Franklin coach Brian Bales said. “It really hit me today: I’ll never get to coach Luke Kennard again. He’s the greatest player I’ve ever coached. And he may go down in the history of Ohio as one of the top one, two or three players to ever play high school basketball here.”
Kennard averaged 38.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.2 steals a game for 26-2 team that lost in the regional championship game. With 2,977 career points he became the No. 2 scorer in Ohio behind 2007 winner Jon Diebler’s 3,208.
A National Honor Society member with a 4.3 grade-point average, Kennard hit 89 percent of his free throws, 49 percent of 3-pointers and 59.3 percent from the field.
He did it all while in sharp focus because of the Mr. Basketball title he carried with him all year. When the Wildcats went out of state or played a high-profile game in the Buckeye state, he was the center of attention. Opposing fans wore North Carolina’s sky-blue jerseys to get on him for picking the Blue Devils.
Yet he notched at least 50 points in five games this year. And over his four years at Franklin, the team went 86-11.
There were times when Bales couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“We’ve seen everything, from box-and-one to diamond-and-one to triangle-and-2,” he said. “Again Springboro, coached by a good friend of mine, he just put two guys on him and we basically played four on three. Others said, ‘We’re just going to guard him (with one player) and shut everybody else down because they thought they couldn’t stop him.”
Kennard took it all in stride. When he couldn’t get open, he found teammates who were.
The son of a banker and a substitute teacher with an older sister, he used the word “blessed” seven times — once per minute — in a brief break between classes. His mother is occasionally his teacher.
Before he heads to Duke in late June or early July, he’s got a lot going on. He’ll head to Chicago for the McDonald’s All-America game next week. He’ll also compete for a spot on the U.S. Under-19 team that will play in Greece.
He’ll take some baggage with him to Durham, North Carolina, including that two-time Mr. Basketball label.
Kennard is humbled just to be linked to the likes of James and the rest.
“Man, those players,” he said, hesitating. “I’m just really blessed. It’s not just for me, but for my family and the entire program and community here.”
Kennard is the 28th winner of the AP Ohio Mr. Basketball award. Past winners also include current NBA players James, Sullinger and Trey Burke. The selection was made based on balloting by a state panel of media members.
Others considered for the award included 6-10 senior Carlton Bragg of Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph (headed for Kansas), 6-2 Joshua Williams of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary (Akron), Shaker Heights’ 6-8 Esa Ahmad (West Virginia), 6-0 junior Xavier Simpson of Lima Senior, 6-1 junior Drew Rackley of New Concord John Glenn and 6-1 Beau Justice of Peebles (West Liberty).
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