Behind the scenes with Luke Kennard

Luke Kennard visited Duke last weekend with his family. After several days of reflection, the Kennard camp sat down with TDD to discus the trip, Coach K's vision for the five star small forward, and just how he'd thrive at Duke. Also on the agenda…when a decision will be made. Read on for the full story.

From a parent's perspective, how do you feel about how the recruiting process has gone now that you've completed Luke's first official visit?

Mark Kennard, father of Luke Kennard: Well, I'll be honest with you, the process has been and I've never been involved in something like this before, but it has been going really well. The coaches have just been unbelievable and respectful of Luke's time, my time, they've been great, he's narrowed his list down to six or seven schools, whatever they are and I think he's maybe even thinking about narrowing that down even a little lower. Now that we're starting to take official visits starting out to Duke, it was simply unbelievable, that's an awesome place. I think Luke is going to find out where he really wants to go and I mean, Luke's been to some other really great places but I think it's went well and I think he's still wanting to get it done in the May/June timeframe.

What made the Duke visit "unbelievable" in your estimation?

Well, the tightness, the closeness, you can just feel, even on the campus how close-knit it is, it really feels like a family atmosphere, not only with the basketball program, but also with the student body as well. And I understand, obviously they want Luke to go there, but I think Coach K is a very honest man and I think all the coaches there have been that way with us in telling us that not only is Luke a shooter, but he can also make plays whether it be driving to the basket or pulling up. So the whole campus, it was just, you get that feel, you get that sense. Everybody on campus spoke to you, the coaching staff's been great, the whole staff has been great and I think they have some younger coaches that really relate to Luke very well. Like Coach Wojo, he's been awesome, Coach Scheyer, he's not a coach who can call us, but we were able to meet him this weekend, but Coach Wojo, Coach Capel, they've been great. You can just tell it's a family atmosphere, all the assistants at Duke are ex-players and that's kinda neat. The way he deals with people, like on Friday night, the student body came in before the Carolina game, that was really neat, the way they really focused on him when he was talking, you can just tell the pride they have in their school and program. It was really neat.

It's been reported that Coach K has made Luke a personal recruiting priority in his class, can you shed some light on what that has looked like?

Well, obviously he's been here to a couple of games, he did a visit here, we've met him a couple of times, we were able to talk with him several times but we've also talked with the assistants many times and I just feel, he feels like Luke fits their system and he's a guy who gives his players a lot of freedom to play and that system fits Luke well. We've heard from him many times and we expect to continue to hear from him in the future. It's been a great run with them, we've built a relationship with them from the ground up.

Is there any expected follow up communication for this week now that you guys are back from the visit with Coach K or the Duke staff?

No, we'll probably continue to talk with the assistants, but they've got a really busy week coming up, and every school is like that, we completely understand that the coaches can't call all the time because of how busy they are during the season, especially at this point of the year with conference tournaments and that's their main focus right now, as it should be. Once we get into April I think there will be some school visits up here, maybe some in-home visits, we'll probably do one of those.

What was it like for you guys as parents seeing all the other guys and their parents on visits at the same time at Duke?

You know, that could be some of Luke's teammates so that was great, we were able to interact a little bit with them and with their parents, that was neat because obviously Luke wants to go and play with other good players because that's what makes you better, so that was a really neat experience.

How much were you guys around the Duke staff during the visit?

We were around them quite a bit, you know obviously we had meeting with Coach K, we got to see a practice, we met with admissions and talked with them. We met academic people, that was really neat, we interacted a lot with the assistants and Coach K.

When you met with Coach K, what were the big topics of conversation?

Obviously the way he sees Luke, his vision for Luke, and then he talked about the Duke system and family and how Luke would fit in there.

Did you guys have a lot of questions going into the visit?

No, we ask every coach similar questions like are they planning on being there when our son goes to college and obviously Coach K, he's pretty confident that he's going to continue to coach for a little while. We ask, there were some questions we asked him and we're also looking at the academic side of things, we had questions for them and also with the admissions people, so it was a good overall for not just basketball, but also for good informational purposes on the academic side.

The questions you asked, can you shed some light on what you learned?

It was really wanting to hear Coach K discuss his vision for Luke and how he sees Luke fitting in. Like he doesn't consider Luke to just be a shooter, he's a guy he thinks can get to the basket and shoot the basketball and pass it and if you look at Coach K's system, obviously he lets his players play and that's something that fits Luke very well.

How do you feel about that vision that Coach K shared about how he sees Luke fitting in there?

I feel that it's a system that Luke would thrive in, definitely he would thrive in.

Several months ago Luke mentioned in an interview with me that he didn't feel like he would need to potentially take all five official visits, that he may go on his first official visit and make the decision after the first one—is that thought process still there in his recruitment, or has that changed?

You know, I always say that, but I'm not really sure with that. First of all, we had never been to Duke before and I can tell you that he was very excited about Duke, I think he may take another one or two and then make a decision. I'm not sure he'll take all five visits, I will say that. I don't think he was going to the visit, I mean, he really loves Duke, they are one of the best programs in the country, but I don't think his intent when he went down there was to just go ahead and commit, he's going to think things through and make sure and that if he wants to take another visit, if he wants to take another official visit just to make sure, I really just want him to make sure, I want him to be 100% sure where he wants to go. I don't want to downplay this visit though, it was tremendous.

Did Coach K or the staff ask for a commitment during the visit?

No sir, not at all. He asked us for what our timeframe is, he did ask that, we've always kinda stuck to we want to decide in the next couple of months, maybe even sooner and he told us that he would really like to do an in-home visit with us and go from there.

Do you feel like there's a pecking order so to speak in Luke's recruitment with the schools now that you've visited them?

No, and right now, it's all the schools in there that are his list.

In your estimation, did you guys taking the first official visit to Duke signify anything, or was that just how you decided to get the official visits started?

Not necessarily, no. It was more scheduling and Luke really wanted to go to Duke, he hadn't been there. So and again, I'm not going to downplay it, it was awesome there.

What led to you guys deciding to take an official visit to Duke without having taken an unofficial visit there first like you have with other programs?

It's one of the schools that's at the top of his list and obviously we've been to other schools unofficially, that was a place that he definitely wanted to get to.

One of the things you've heard a lot with Luke's recruitment is how many different groups of people there are who might want Luke to go to a particular school, how are you guys handling that?

We obviously get that a lot, there's a lot of people who would like to see him go to different schools that are recruiting him, so again, I do want to make that clear, we're not trying to retract anything, but there are a lot of people who do want him to go to different places. I'll tell you what, we have a small inner circle, it's only Luke, myself, his mom, his high school coach, our family and that's kinda our inner circle. We obviously do hear it a lot, kids at school, people in the community so go to this place or that place but we try to keep it in the small inner circle that we have.

With Luke obviously being a family oriented kid, how big a factor do you see that as in his recruitment and evaluation of where he wants to go to school?

No, we've told Luke we want him to look at the total picture here, what's going to be best for him, whether that's close to home or whether that's farther away from home, I don't want him to have that factored into his decision. If he feels that he needs to go somewhere that's farther away from home, I don't want him to feel like he has to stay home just because of mom or dad. I don't want that to happen, if there's some place that he wants to go that's farther away from home, I want him to do that.

For him, do you think it feels easier to make a decision to stay closer to home so he can be closer to his family?

I think for Luke, it's either one, my daughter is one, I think she's going to stick around a little closer, but Luke growing up, he could always go stay with my parents or my wife's parents and not bat an eye so he can go places obviously and not worry about it. Again, whether it's here or close to home or away from home, I just want him to make the best decision for him and what will be the best fit for him as a basketball player in the long run, that's what I want him to look at.

What do you think the decision will be based on in deciding whether to take another visit or not?

You know, just to tell you, he'll probably take another one or two official visits to be honest with you. I haven't sat down with him since the visit and talked with him about that yet but we will and if he says "Dad, I want to take four more", we'll take four more. Of if he asks me what I think, I'll give him some advice and if he says "Dad, I want to commit to here", then that's what we'll do. It's him that has to make the ultimate decision and I'll give my advice, but I want him to make the decision. If he tells me that he knows where he wants to go right now, he's ready to decide, here's what I'll say, I'll tell him that's fine, and Luke's going to call the other schools, we talked about that upfront, he's going to call them and tell them that he knows where he wants to go and that's what we're going to tell them, we're going to do that.

It sounds like Luke is a thoughtful, planner type when it comes to this decision…

Oh yeah, Luke's definitely a thoughtful, organized, he is, I think that's a pretty good description of him.

When you were on Duke's campus, did he go in with that organized approach, or did he more go on the visit with the attitude of just soaking it up, enjoying everything and then think about it later?

Well, he did a little bit of both, he soaked it up and he was enjoying it and thinking, but he also got real comfortable there with the assistant coaches and the players and I think that was a real plus too. The intention for him going in was to soak it up, enjoy it, take a serious look at it and just really look at the stuff, look at Coach K, look at the practices, look at the total picture but he also got pretty comfortable with those coaches.

What was it that led to him getting so comfortable with the coaches there?

Well, Luke, if you know Luke, he's kinda quiet but he really got to talk a lot more with them towards the last day or two and he asked questions, I could tell he was really blending in well with everybody.

When you were around him during the visit, what kind of things was he bringing up in conversation?

You know, I think like I said before, he thought the place was beautiful, it's a gorgeous campus, he really likes the people, he really likes Coach K and the staff and he also really got to know some of the other recruits there were there with him.

With the next couple of official visits, if it goes that direction, are there schools that you guys are likely to take the next set of officials to?

Yes, but I think there probably is, but before that I want to make sure I discuss that with Luke. We've been to Ohio State games and Michigan games and Kentucky games, so maybe we will compare some of what we see there to what we saw at Duke, Louisville, Carolina/Duke, we visited Carolina for that game last year. Obviously you can look at all those schools and you can say that obviously they all have great games, they all have great campuses, great coaches, great traditions but on the other side, we haven't met with admissions yet with some of those schools and I think that's a very important part of that, at least for Luke it is.

You mentioned meeting the academic staff at Duke, what were those meetings like?

We talked about different things, the stuff they require and what's required of Luke and obviously Luke is going to school to get a degree so what kind of majors would Luke be looking at, stuff like that. It was a great interaction for me and for Luke's mother and for Luke as well. Let me just say this, we were able to meet with some of the coaches families as well and they were great, just really great people. I know people can get first impressions of people, but those people, they were great and I'll be honest with you, every coach we've met, great people, really good people, I can't say a bad word about any of the coaches that we've ever met.

What was the experience like for you guys at the game watching Duke play North Carolina knowing that Coach Williams is recruiting Luke hard as well?

You know, that can be a little awkward at times but I know that Coach Williams understands that, they've recruited guys that they've gotten and different people that Duke got that Carolina recruited as well, so I think he gets that. Like last year we were at the Carolina/Duke game at Carolina and they played well, so it gets a little awkward but we were there to see Duke and to meet with Coach K, so that wasn't a really big deal.

Are there still any unanswered questions you guys have with any of the programs as you progress towards potential campus visits or in-home visits?

Basically, if something comes up, we'll call and ask them, but I don't know, I'm sure there will be other questions but just stuff we'll talk with them about or maybe there's stuff they will want to talk with us about, but that's something we'll have to take a look at.

How do you see the announcement playing out for Luke?

I'll be honest with you, Luke would rather just call a couple people and say this is where I'm going and just let that be it. He's not, Luke he appreciates everything and don't get me wrong, he's a very humble kid and that's one of the reasons I'm so proud of him because he treats people right because above anything else, he knows that the Lord has blessed him, so he's not going to try and make this a big show and we don't want him to do that either and we respect the other coaches, whatever he does decide, we want to tell them first, just out of respect, all those schools, they've been unbelievable and we're not going to try and make a big show out of this.  

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