South Carolina sophomore Devan Downey played for Kennedy when he was Cincinnati's interim coach in 2005-06. The two parted ways after the season when Kennedy wasn't retained by the Bearcats and left for Ole Miss. Downey briefly considered joining Kennedy in Oxford, but decided to transfer home to South Carolina and will face his former coach's team on the court for the first time.
"It scares me to death because I know him so well and I know how good he is," Kennedy said.
Downey sat out the 2006-07 season, but has been invaluable to South Carolina and coach Dave Odom. He ranks second in the SEC in scoring (19.6 points a game) and leads the league in steals (3.4). Downey also is third in assists (5.1).
Kennedy said he's not surprised by his immediate success, calling Downey a "warrior." Odom is hoping Downey won't try too hard to make an impression on the court Saturday, though.
"I think there will be an emotional build-up going into the game," Odom said. "Devan may not admit that, but he's human."
Odom said Downey has a deep respect for Kennedy, something he hasn't tried to discourage. He added that Kennedy always asked about Downey when the two bumped into each other in the offseason.
Kennedy said he grew close to Downey during the tumultuous season with the Bearcats, which began when longtime coach Bob Huggins was fired before the year began. Downey earned all-conference honors as a freshman, but Cincinnati missed out on an NCAA Tournament selection.
He said he feels like a "proud father" watching Downey this season.
"A lot of people have asked me if I'm surprised by his immediate success," Kennedy said. "Absolutely not. The kid is a tremendous player. He's a warrior. He's going to do everything in his power to help his team win. What he and I went through together in a pretty tumultuous season, him being a freshman, me being a rookie interim coach under not the best of circumstances, is something that I'll remember forever.
"He'll always have a very special place in my heart. I love the kid."
But Kennedy said those warm, fuzzy feelings will be set aside Saturday.
"I assure you it won't have any effect on our game plan," Kennedy said of his relationship with Downey. "Just as I'm sure whatever he feels towards me is not going to keep him from wanting to come in here and kick our tails, I guarantee that."
Vanderbilt opened with the best start in school history, winning its first 15 games and climbing as high as No. 13 in the national rankings. But SEC play hasn't been kind to the Commodores this month.
Vandy has dropped four of its six league games so far after the 74-58 loss at Ole Miss on Wednesday. All of them have been road games at difficult venues — Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida and Ole Miss — but the mounting losses has coach Kevin Stallings concerned.
"I am concerned on a number of fronts," said Stallings, whose team is tied with South Carolina for last in the SEC Eastern Division. "I don't think our effort has been quite as good. I don't think our leadership has been close to as good as it was early in the season.
"So obviously the productivity hasn't been there either."
Vanderbilt will try to bounce back against Auburn on Saturday. The good news is that it's at home, where the Commodores are 13-0.
LSU guard Marcus Thornton helped the Tigers snap an eight-game losing streak by scoring a career-high 38 points against Auburn on Wednesday night. Thornton hit the game-winning, 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds left to help the Tigers grab an 81-80 win.
"I thought he was Pete Maravich there for awhile," LSU coach John Brady said. "We needed to have a game like that where we can shoot the ball consistently. He was phenomenal. The best offensive night in my 11 years here. ... He made every big shot down the stretch."
Thornton's performance helped LSU snap the SEC's longest losing streak. It was the Tigers' first win since beating Oregon State 67-61 on Dec. 22. It also broke LSU's 15-game road losing streak.
Another Injured ‘Cat
Kentucky guard Joe Crawford's is questionable for Saturday's game at Georgia because of plantar fasciitis. Crawford didn't play in the Wildcats' 78-70 win against South Carolina and coach Billy Gillispie said the senior hasn't practiced this week because of the injury.
"He hasn't been able to practice," Gillispie said. "The last action I've seen from Joe on the court was during the Tennessee game when he had to take himself out."
Crawford, Kentucky's third-leading scorer (16 points), is one of six players to miss time with injuries this season. Guards Jodie Meeks (knee) and Derrick Jasper (hip) have returned from injuries, but Gillispie said they were limited in practice this week.
Kennedy, Downey To Reunite in Oxford
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
Cats Picked To Win SEC CrownThe voters at SEC Media Days are convinced: Kentucky has reloaded.
AllWildcatsWednesday at 10:13 AM
Arkansas On Game Days | Tailgate TravelsAs much fun as it is being at an Arkansas football game, the pregame can be just as enjoyable, especially if you have an RV. Head out to Fayetteville to see what makes the…
Scout CFBYesterday at 9:20 AM
"They Are Playing Really Good Football"Arkansas Coaches Bret Bielema and Dan Enos talk about facing Auburn this weekend and the challenges that presents for the Razorbacks.
Inside The AU TigersWednesday at 9:26 AM
Scout's Top 25 Recruiting ClassesScout has a new top school in the recruiting rankings. Take a look at capsules for the top 25 classes in the country, including a new number one.
Scout FootballMonday at 10:20 AM
Scout 2017 Rankings DirectoryThe Scout positional, state, regional, national and team rankings for the Class of 2017...
Scout FootballMonday at 7:00 AM