Luke Kennard: Junior Primer

Most of our top 25 juniors have pieced together impressive 2013-14 seasons, but none has been more prolific than Kennard.

If you want to understand what Luke Kennard is as a player, don't watch him on the travel circuit. On the looser, frequently ragtag grassroots trail, he can be hit or miss. I've watched Kennard play very well during the summer, but it's the greater structure of high school basketball where he truly shines.

GoBlueWolverine managing editor Sam Webb observed him in action back in 2011 and noted immediately that he could become a prime Michigan target. He was right and then some.

Kennard impressed at the Flyin' To The Hoop event as a freshman, then arrived still somewhat nationally unknown at the 2012 Beach Ball Classic as a sophomore. He absolutely tore it up at that event and set himself up for a huge 2013 spring and summer.

Prior even to the opening of spring, he fielded interest from Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, Dayton, Xavier, Cincinnati, North Carolina, Kentucky, Clemson, Butler, Minnesota and Notre Dame, among many others.

He played reasonably well in the following few months but was inconsistent, and thus the question surfaced whether he'd project as a more of a top-40 talent or someone who might challenge for the top 10 or 15.

Kennard foreshadowed his junior season by tearing it up in the 16-under division at the Peach Jam. That week, in front of a throng of college coaches, he netted additional high-major offers. By the time July had concluded, he claimed invitations from Kentucky, Duke, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, North Carolina, Louisville and others.

His 2013-14 season has featured numerous breathtaking performances, including 38 points and 10 rebounds matched against UNC-bound senior Justin Jackson this past weekend. His recruitment is so hot that he likely will douse the flames prior to spring, as he has drawn a full slate of major offers and has his pick of schools.

Kennard should become an immediate contributor wherever he lands. A southpaw shooter, he first built a reputation on the basis of his long-range marksmanship. He spots up comfortably from deep and buries three after three. Clearly, his shot will remain a primary weapon going forward.

That said, he has proved to be more than one-dimensional. He can put the ball on the floor and create for others, and his floor game includes slick dribble moves and passes. He's at least an average athlete, too, and he should okay, if not great, defensively.

My chief concern actually isn't one you would expect: his jump shot. Yes, because as accurately as Kennard fires in bombs, he shoots with a low release and with the ball directly in front of his face. Will he be able to get clean looks against college-level closeouts, particularly given that he'll face some superior athletes?

The case may be prove to be that he's best as a third scoring option, rather than a player who takes on a vast share of the scoring load and thereby draws intense defensive attention. In my eyes, Kennard projects as a more efficient and overall more effective player for a powerhouse program — even in a potential tertiary role — than he would at a mid-major.

And, of course, that also may not prove to be the case. Kennard certainly can do some good things off the dribble, and as he becomes stronger perhaps he won't rely as heavily on his jump shot when facing elite competition. He also seems to thrive in more structured settings, which indicates that he may develop quickly as a player who navigates well off screens and by locating gaps in perimeter defenses.

He has a high floor due to his shooting and overall skill, and with a few tweaks — or at least questions answered in the affirmative — he could become a star at the next level as well.

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