Durant Felt Home At Alabama
Kendall Durant was on the Alabama campus last weekend, and this fall he will enter The University as a basketball player for Crimson Tide Coach Anthony Grant.
"I enjoyed it," Durant said of his visit. "It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I never experienced a place where people are so welcoming and family oriented. I felt like that is the place where I want to be." Tulsa University was the only other serious contender piquing his interest.
The A-Day crowd and festivities captivated the young man.
"It was exciting to see that many people there for just a practice game," he said. "It was interesting. I was walking by and people were camping out and were asking if I wanted a hot dog. They didn't even know me so that gave me a general idea of how friendly and how welcoming the state is and the school atmosphere."
Anthony Grant while at VCU recruited Durant out of high school and rekindled the interest during a top 100 junior college camp held at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma last summer.
"They came to a few games and open gyms and made it clear they really wanted me to be a part of their program," said the self-described right-handed 6-2, 195-pound guard known as "KD."
"Coach Grant said he wanted me to develop a killer mentality because he feels like my potential is very high. He wants to bring the best out of me. He wants me to play the two and the one. Play the combo and just attack, defend and use my defensive ability."
He tested his skills and explored the boundaries of camaraderie in a pick-up game while being hosted by the Crimson Tide team.
"It's a talented group of players. I really like them – the big men, the guards – they really get after it. I fit right in," he was delighted to report. "They showed me some of their off-season workouts, shooting and continuous movement drills. It was game situation stuff."
Alabama's full-throttle system is perfect for the athletic and aggressive Washington, D.C. native.
"Get it and go, but play defense first of all," stating his philosophy consistent with the fast-paced attack employed by Grant.
Durant's commitment decision was swayed in part by glowing reports about Grant from current scholarship players.
"We were ‘chllin' in the dorms and apartments. They were saying nothing but good things about a coach they only knew for one year," he confided. "They said he is about his business and will keep it real with you. He's going to do nothing but get you better."
Practices are physically demanding, but the players conceded the superior conditioning emphasis gave them an advantage over opponents.
An introduction to the strength and conditioning opportunities available on campus resonated with the first time visitor.
"We never did lift very much, and I was not on a routine. We just ran and played," he explained. "I never did like lifting, but I know now I'm going to have to do it."
A claimed 40-inch vertical supplements his attack-the-rack style but his comfort level extends to the three-point line as well. His intensity is not solely limited to scoring points though.
"I get mad when people get past me," declared the prideful young man expressing a passion for defending. "I'll guard anybody. I step up to the challenges and have no fear. It's a game. At all times I try to keep whoever in front of me. Sometimes things happen but for the most part I'm going to keep them there."
"He's really developed into a complete player meaning he can score at the rim with power and he's one of the best three-point shooters in the country," replied second year Weatherford College Head Coach Dave Donnelly about the first player recruited to his program. "Where he's improved his game is he's developed a mid-range game."
He is favorably viewed off the hardwood as well.
"He's a gentleman. He's going to represent Alabama at the highest level. He's a classy kid and a great role model," Donnelly declared. "His shyness does not preclude him from communicating with young kids or booster club members at the team's luncheon. Durant does not adhere to the chest pumping, fist-raising, choreographed acts normally exhibited by prolific scorers."
Durant's scorer's mentality is compatible with the team concept.
"I also like passing too because I like to see other people do well and I like to get the team involved. There are only five people on the court. We all can do our part and make each other happy but at the same time I've got to use my strengths," he professed.
"Shooting is a definite strength. It depends on the flow of the game, what we need and who is in the game with me. Put the ball in the hole. That is the game."
The offensive assertiveness will be a valued edition to an Alabama team suffering from prolonged scoring droughts.
His tour of the campus produced some surprises.
"The facilities and rich tradition. I didn't realize how many pros attended Alabama. You hear about the tradition, but once you get to see, read and realize all the people who went there before you it kind of makes you proud to go and step in and make a name for yourself too," he contended.
The Paul W. Bryant Academic Center dazzled the first time visitor.
"They have 70 tutors for student-athletes waiting to help you with whatever you need. There should be no reason to fail. They are really serious about not only pushing you on the court, but academically too.
"We can only play sports for a certain amount of years. Your brain never stops working until you leave this earth. They are serious about you graduating which definitely influenced my decision," said Durant who has intentions to be a Business Management major with aspirations of owning a business one day.
"To all the people at Alabama, I can't wait to get down there and work my butt off for you and bring that school what it deserves. Not only for football, but now try to get the basketball program's reputation up with football.
"It's a great place with great people. I want to be a part of that big alumni family. I can't wait. I'm so excited," he enthusiastically proclaimed.
Dad, Kenny Payne, was the point guard for The University of District of Columbia 1982 NCAA Division II National Basketball Champions.
His basketball journey has seen many stops before reaching the Division I level in Tuscaloosa. He was at Archbishop Carroll High in Washington, D.C. for a few years before moving onto Southern Maryland Christian Academy and finally finishing his senior season at Fairmont Heights High School in Capitol Hills, Maryland.
Durant elevated Fairmont Heights to the Maryland State 2A Championship game before the Hornets fell to the eventual three time consecutive winner Randallstown, 66-63. While prepping at the New Hampton (N.H.) School, he signed with Virginia Tech in the fall of 2007.
One of his prep school teammates was Ennis Whatley, Jr., son of the former Alabama great point guard, Ennis, Sr. Accreditation issues at one school prevented him from reaching the NCAA minimum eligibility requirements so once again he packed his bags for Weatherford (TX) College.
He viewed the exposure to other parts of the country as valuable lessons enhancing his life.
"It allowed me to break out of my shell and experience new things," said the city kid removed from his comfort zone.
Adaptability has been an attribute he's embraced on-and-off the court.
Some players might have been discouraged by the circuitous route, but not the resilient Durant.
"The kid had his heart set on going to Virginia Tech at that time. I told him you have to pick yourself up and decide your going to play one possession at a time just like you would if you were behind by 20 points in a basketball game and see what happens," said Fairmont Heights Coach George Wake, the 38-year coaching veteran.
"He told me, ‘Coach I want to go to (VA) Tech, but for some reason I'm not going. Maybe this is where I'm supposed to be in life, and it happened for a reason. I'm going to accept this and go on from here.'"
The superior work ethic and mature attitude has paid big dividends.
"No one is going to outwork him. There was no such thing as working to hard," Wake commented. "He is super confident and a fierce competitor, but in a very positive way."
Durant would stay after practice every night diligent in his pursuit of advancing some facet of his game. James Madison offered the tough and durable hoopster a football scholarship after just one year of playing the game as a linebacker/safety.
He is not a TV viewer or video game player. Relaxing with friends and teammates suits the introverted Durant. His single-minded focus on improving dovetails into his social life. On occasion his girlfriend acts as the shot retriever in a deserted gymnasium.
Durant's winding basketball voyage continues as he expects to arrive on the Tuscaloosa campus in July. Although he caries the surname of his famous Oklahoma City Thunder NBA All-Star cousin, Kevin, he rarely refers to the linked lineage unless prompted. They have spoken at family gatherings and determined the connection probably originates through each other's grandmother.
Born with the marquee name, the bright lights associated with competing in the Southeastern Conference presents the perfect stage for the aspiring basketball player seeking to achieve his own legacy.
Statistics provided by: DakStats
2009-10 Weatherford (TX) College
15.37 ppg 48.5 FG% 36.2 3Pt. FG% 76.2 FT% 415 total points
158-326 51-141 48-63 27 games
46 assists/1.70 apg
2008-09 Weatherford (TX) College
14.96 ppg 49.7 FG% 41.8 3Pt. FG% 83.0 FT% 404 total points
148-298 64-153 44-53 27 games
31 assists/1.15 apg
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