One on one with Luke Kennard

He was the second player from the class of 2015 to earn an offer from Duke. He's also juggling offers and high pressure sales pitches from all the high major programs. So where do things stand with Luke Kennard? We sat down with the Ohio standout to find out about recruiting, which coaches are pushing for a commitment, and why he's thinking about a very early decision.

Luke, what can you tell us about yourself away from basketball?

Luke Kennard: Well I also play football for my high school team. I play quarterback. Aside from that, I just like to be a normal kid. I like to go with my friends to a place called King Island, I get a season pass every year and I go with my friends just like every other kid. I play Madden a lot, NCAA, NBA games, just what most people play.

Who is your favorite football team?

I always grew up a Colts fan, Peyton Manning, he's my favorite. It's a bit weird watching him in Denver it, just a little bit.

Regarding academics, what's the approach to that piece of the puzzle?

I have a 4.3 GPA, but I really haven't decided on what degree I want to go to school for. I'm going to have to make that choice soon, but I haven't really decided yet.

How'd you get your basketball start?

It probably started in kindergarden or first grade. My dad just got me involved in local leagues in the city I grew up in, Franklin, Ohio. He started coaching me and I just started loving it as a little kid. It was the same with football, my dad coached me from when I was really young, and he always just made it fun, that's why I loved to play both of those sports.

Are you entertaining the idea of playing football in college as well as basketball as some players have done in the past?

Some coaches actually ask me that. Louisville has actually offered me in both, and they've always wondered if I wanted to do that. I talked with my parents about that actually and we made that decision that it would probably be too tough to play both in college, so right now I'm probably just focusing on one sport.

Are you leaning towards that one sport being basketball or football?

Right now that's another decision I still have to make but right now I would say that basketball is my number one choice right now. It's going to be a tough decision. We've talked about  it a lot and we came up with a plan to decide by the end of my junior year to decide where I'm going to go.

From a basketball perspective—the player you are now versus the player you are going to be in the future, where do you see yourself heading-development wise?

Some colleges want me to play the 1-2 or possibly even the three. The way I like to play, I like to have the ball coming off of ball screens, I like the floor spread and the dribble drive action. I also like the schools that I talk to that have that style of play and how I would fit in. I like coming off those ball screens and going to the basket or catching it and shooting it.

Another scouting question, can you put yourself in the shoes of a college coach who is preparing a scouting report on you? What are the main things that the coach would put on that scouting report for his team to be aware of when defending you as a player?

I wouldn't let me come off the screen, I think I've really improved in having the ball coming off screens and getting to the basket and getting people open. I'd probably trap the ball screen if I had it and get it out of my heads. But shooting the ball off the dribble or catch and shoot is one of my strengths as a player.

Some players use their athleticism off ball screens to create mismatches and others like to use the angles that a ball screen creates for the ball-handler, how do you tend to work with ball screens

I try to read it, like if the defender comes over the top, I'll do a hard flare to the corner, whatever is there. I can curl screens, it's just all about seeing and feeling where the defender is and making the smart decision off the screen and reading it and making something happen.

This summer for you was as good a summer as anybody had in the class. How do you feel about how it went and did you accomplish any goals that you had at the beginning of the summer?

I kinda wanted for more exposure this summer, I had worked out really hard to get ready, a lot really. It went real well with my AAU team, we won some Showcases and the Peach Jam was a real big tournament, that's when I finally started getting a lot of coaches calling me and offering me. That was my goal, to get a few more colleges interested. I was real surprised by the offers, that was one of goals for the summer, was to improve as a player and to receive that interest from other schools.

Have you and your family tried to manage the explosion of interest in your recruitment, or are you more just enjoying it and letting it play out?

We're just enjoying it right now, taking it slow, but we're going to have to make some decisions here, start narrowing the list down pretty soon. It's been a lot of fun actually, it's very exciting to talk with some of the best college coaches in the US, and just seeing not only how they run their basketball programs, but also their lives too, outside of basketball. It's not too overwhelming, none of them are swarming me with a bunch of phone calls or texts, they are making it time manageable for me, I really like that.

I actually call some coaches myself, a few, some will text me and say you can call me when you have time. Some will text and see how football is going since I have that going on right now, they don't really pressure me about picking a school right now, they are just checking in on me.

Who are you making the effort to call on your own?

I would say it's the coaches in my top 9 or 10 right now, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Michigan State, UK, Duke, North Carolina, Florida, Louisville and I talk to Dayton some too.

Are there any offers that you haven't received from any schools that you are hoping for, or are you pretty happy with what you do have already?

I'm pretty happy with where I'm at. There's a school down south right now, Florida that I've had a lot of contact with them, with Coach Donovan and Coach Pelphrey, they haven't officially offered, but they like how I play when they see me and they would like for me to play for Florida one day. I'm hoping for the offer, but I still have some of the top schools in the nation who have offered me.

Who has offered you before this summer?

Yeah, I've had several, Ohio State, Dayton, Cincinnati, Xavier, but after the Peach Jam, or after June 15th actually, Michigan offered me that day when they could first start contacting me.

How are you comparing the new offers to the older offers in your evaluation?

The schools that have been with me, like Ohio State and Michigan and Dayton, they've been following me since the summer of my eighth grade year going into my freshman year, so that plays a big factor in my decision I would say. But also, the new schools that have just offered, those are some of the top schools in the nation, those schools are definitely in the Top 10.

16. Before the summer, were there specific schools that you were hoping to earn either additional interest or a scholarship offer from?

You know, I'll be honest…. My family, they grew up a UK fan. I always dreamed of playing for a high level school like Kentucky, but you know, Ohio State and Duke, they are all high level, that's the highest you can get. But I would say that Kentucky and Duke, probably North Carolina were three that I would have really liked to have an offer from, and also Louisville.

What was it about those four that made you want those offers?

Definitely just the programs, the coaches, the tradition they have, you can just tell, they get players, their player development is just top notch and they get players into the NBA every year. That's not all I'm worried about, just getting straight to the NBA, but that's a big part of all those schools, they are top notch and are also some of the top academic programs in the nation.

What kind of questions have you been asking of the coaches?

Really like, we always ask, especially if we go on an unofficial visit, we always ask the coach if he will be there, do they plan to be there by the time I get to college. That plays a big role, if I develop a good relationship with a coach right now and then they leave, that could change my decision tremendously. So we always ask the coaches that, and we ask about their style of play, those are the two main questions they ask.

Is there any concerns with any of the coaches regarding the question you guys ask about are they planning on being there when you come?

No, everybody says they plan on being there, but you just never know. Like Brad Stevens at Butler, they offered me on June 15th and we asked him the same exact question and he switched jobs, so you just never know, but they all have told me they plan on being there when I go to college.

Does that question lead you to want to wait awhile before offering a commitment so you have an idea about any coaches that could possibly leave?

I'd say yes, a little bit. But we do trust the coaches on their word. Like I said, we're going to take a few more unofficial visits and see what I really like and where I'm going to fit in right.

Have you hit it off with any of the coaches personality wise?

All the coaches, they are just great, but I'd say I've developed a good relationship with the Michigan and Ohio State coaches for the longest, I would say those are the schools I'm the most comfortable with since they have been around the longest, I've been on campus for unofficial visits already, I've talked with the coaches there the most, I can just be myself around them.

How big a deal is the length of a relationship with colleges in your consideration—is it an advantage for those schools who have the longer relationship with you?

It can be, definitely, you want to feel comfortable around the coaches, you want to be at home when you go there. But like I said, we're going to take a few more unofficial visits, and then get into the official visits and just keep building relationships with the coaches and see where it goes from there.

Who have you visited so far schools wise?

I've visited Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Xavier and Dayton and Michigan State too. I think we're planning on going to Duke in September, we're going to try to.

Is there a target date in mind yet in September for the Duke visit?

It's not for sure yet because of football and stuff, but we're going to try to in September.

Is that being coordinated at the request of the Duke staff, or was it more you guys just wanted to take the visit?

They asked us to, they really want us to come down, but we did tell them that the schedule is kinda busy right now, so we'll have to see what opens up to come.

With the Duke offer over the summer, can you take me inside how the offer was presented and what the communication was like with the Duke staff both before the offer and after it?

It was in Augusta, GA, right after the Peach Jam. Coach K watched three of my games there and then one night, it was actually the same night that Kentucky offered too, but Coach K called and said he really liked watching me play and he wanted to offer me a full ride scholarship. He was actually at the hospital because his daughter was having a baby and he called me and told me he would love to see me in a Duke uniform one day. Since then, we've talked to their new assistant, Jon Scheyer a lot and then Coach Wojo texts me all the time and Coach K has texted me a few times to check up on how I'm doing and see what's going on with me.

What kind of stuff do you discuss with Jon Scheyer?

He actually came and watched me play, he told me he really likes watching me play and he said he really wants me to come and play at Duke, and we just talk about normal stuff like school and how football is going, just normal conversations.

So how did you feel in the moment when you are on the phone and Coach K is offering you the scholarship to Duke?

I was kinda speechless, I just said thank you and I really appreciate it. Then that night, I really couldn't sleep much, I stayed up for most of the night, I just felt very blessed and thankful for it. I was kinda surprised, but at the same time very excited.

Has Coach K discussed with you how about the recruiting process is going to move forward with you and them?

Coach K wants me to come down for an unofficial, I just took an unofficial two weeks ago to Kentucky, Coach Cal, when I went there, me and my dad sat down with Coach Cal for about 30 minutes, talked about the school, about how I'd fit in, he wanted me to go home and talk it over with my mom, but he would love for me to commit right now and to start moving forward from now.

That sounds like a hard sell, how did you react to what Coach Cal communicated in that meeting?

You know, I told him that we're still, I planned on committing at the end of my junior year, I told them that and they were fine with that, they understood that, and they also said that if you feel like the time is right, just go ahead and get it done.

When you read the Twitter discussion about you, Kentucky's mentioned a lot. Can you share from your perspective how you felt about Kentucky growing up and how do you feel about them now?

I liked Kentucky  a lot growing up, some of my family grew up in Kentucky, they've been UK fans their whole life, so I grew up around UK fans. I have a lot of friends that are UK fans too. Growing up, Tayshaun Prince, he was like my role model I would say, he was my favorite player growing up. Now, I still really like them, I wouldn't say I have a favorite school now, but I would say that Kentucky was my favorite school growing up. I would say with all the new offers coming, I wouldn't say I have a favorite school right now, but I do like Kentucky and Coach Cal and the way they run things there.

How much does your family's feelings about a program shape how you feel about a program?

You know, I listen to my parents, but they also listen to me. They want me to follow my heart and they want what I want. They are not going to pick a school for me, they will support my decision on wherever I want to go. They always setup visits and they are always listening to me and they want to support whatever I want to do.

How much are you looking at what's happening with recruiting of the schools recruiting you?

Oh yes, my high school coach is actually doing that for me, he keeps track of players that are committing to schools I'm considering or players they are recruiting, because you know you always want to play with a great team while you are there and also be able to play. My coach is doing a good job at looking at that.

Are there any schools that are a concern to you with depth chart related topics?

No, not really.

Outside of the Duke visit that is being planned, what other schools are you planning to visit during the fall?

I think I'm going to Ohio State for their second football game, September 7th, I'm pretty sure. Them and Duke are pretty much the only two that are being planned so far. I'm sure we'll get up to a few more schools for football games and to hang out with the coaches.

One of the popular trends these days is reclassifying, getting to college earlier—is that something that's being considered with you?

I'm pretty happy with graduating in the class of 2015, we haven't really thought about reclassifying in any way, I wouldn't say so.

Is there a timeframe in place for moving to a smaller list for you?

Not really, I'd say definitely, start of my high school season for basketball, we'll probably sit down before the start of that season and talk about narrowing it down, because we only get 5 official visits, so we're going to have narrow that down, especially since I can take those in January.

Do all the coaches recruiting you know that you are examining taking official visits in January 2014?

I don't think so, I don't know if it's going to be right in January, we might take one, but I haven't talked about it yet.

If you avail yourself of that option to take an early official visit around January, what schools that are recruiting you would be in serious consideration for that early official visit, if you took it?

Honestly I don't know yet, we're going to have to talk about that, I want to talk about that with my parents and my high school coach. I wouldn't say I have an official Top 5, I still haven't made that decision.

Do you think there's any no-brainer schools for you in your current Top 10 that are likely to either make the Top 5 or host you for one of your 5 official visits?

I'd say, I'd probably take one from Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina and I'd probably fit a couple more in there. It'd be tough.

It sounds like you are setting up to make a decision before the start of your senior year based on the timing of these potential visits, am I reading that correctly?

Yeah, I'd say so. Probably by the end of the summer.

Do you feel like it's important to you to take all 5 official visits or is it more you are open to not taking all 5 and seeing where it goes?

If I take an official visit and I just feel right at that school, I'll probably have a Top 5 by then, so I'll start with #1 and go there first, and if I think I really like that, then I'll go ahead and commit. But if not, I can start working my way through #s 2, 3, 4 and 5. I'm pretty open, I probably won't need to take all 5, but just in case you need to have that Top 5, just in case.

When you say starting with #1 for the visits, does that mean the #1 school that you are considering to be your favorite going into that first visit?

Yes, I'd say so.

Based on who is recruiting you in light of that, who do you think is in contention for that first official visit?

Man, I don't really know yet, but definitely Ohio State, Michigan, Duke, Carolina, Kentucky and Louisville I would definitely say are in the running for that.

That's a really different approach you are indicating to most who line up 5 official visits, what makes you open to that idea?

I'm not sure, it's just an idea I've been thinking about, I'm not really sure how I started thinking about that.

With the Duke unofficial visit coming up potentially, what's your mindset going into that visit since it's your first time going there?

I'm really going to pay attention when I go, that's definitely, I would say that Duke is definitely in my Top 5 schools right now, and like I said they offered. I'm going to go there and talk with Coach K, and I'm not planning on committing like right then, but if I feel really comfortable there and I like it, then I could. Plans can always change, on the visit I'm just going to take everything in and go from there.

What makes you feel so strongly about Duke when you haven't even had a chance to visit them yet?

Just the program, and also Coach K, he's one of the best coaches ever to have coached. The success that they have had, I'd say those are the probably some of the main things that sets them apart from other schools.

Where are your parents with the whole idea of a potential early commitment

Yeah, they actually talked to me about that, they were actually the ones who came up with that plan and I just agreed with them, I listen to them, they are really good about coming up with those ideas and decisions. 

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