Mark Kennard, father of Luke Kennard: It’s going good, just a lot of basketball, basketball and more basketball, which is fun. We went to the Duke game last week and that was a lot of fun, had a good time. Now we’re just back at it now.
I was hoping to kick off the interview by asking about Luke’s season if I may. Can you put into perspective what it’s been like watching your son have the season that he’s had this year?
It’s kinda been a dream to be honest. He’s played really well and he’s shot the ball really well and he’s just been consistent is what I would say. He’s got some really good teammates that really help him a lot, when they are scoring and knocking down shots, it makes his job even easier. It’s been a lot of fun and he’s just been very, very consistent.
So Luke passed LeBron’s scoring mark this year, what was the general reaction to that?
You know it’s just again, it’s just been remarkable. It’s been a dream come true for Luke and the Good Lord has blessed him with talent and we’re just very thankful. It was just a really proud moment is what I would say breaking LeBron’s record. Luke will tell you that he’s obviously not LeBron, but to be in the same class as far as scoring wise goes, it’s a great accomplishment by Luke and he’s been very humbled by it. It’s been an unbelievable ride.
Being with Luke day to day in the midst of the success he’s been having—what you have noticed about Luke the person as he’s gone through all this?
You know, what I’ve noticed about Luke is he is extremely humble. He doesn’t tell anybody all puffed up that hey, I broke LeBron’s record, this and that. He just enjoys high school and playing basketball and he really just loves the game. He takes it all in and he handles it very well and the community here has been very kind to him. I really just want him to continue to really appreciate what he’s doing and to be proud of it, but don’t think you are there yet because you still have work to do.
Did Luke ever have any personal communication with LeBron once he passed him?
I don’t think so no. I know LeBron was asked about it on SportsCenter or something like that and he responded there because he was aware of it. I don’t think LeBron texted him or anything like that.
I’m sure Luke received a lot of well-wishes and congratulations from a variety of people—was there anybody that surprised you guys by congratulating him?
I think there was but I’m trying to remember who it was. He got a ton of great job, congratulations, that type of thing and obviously Coach K reached out and told him how excited he was for him.
Another honor that Luke received was being named to the McDonald’s All American Game. When did you guys officially find out from them that he was in and how did you guys react to the news?
To be honest when they found out, we had a little celebration party for our team and they found out watching TV with Luke then. He was very excited because as an individual, that’s a dream come true to be in that game because every single high school player has that as a goal. As far as high school awards goes, Luke was very excited to have made the team and he was very happy, I can tell you that. It was always a dream for him ever since he first watched those games so many years ago and going into this season and all his seasons that was a real dream of his. He’s obviously going to be working hard on his game to be ready and we want him to go and enjoy it and have fun and also we want him to be ready to go. Don’t get out of shape between now and then, keep your game right and we want him to enjoy the whole experience because it’s a once in a lifetime thing. It’s going to be neat for him to be able to visit the Ronald McDonald House and he’s going to be there with a bunch of great guys, obviously the best high school players around and he’s really excited and looking forward to it.
How’s he feeling about going in alongside his future Duke teammate Chase Jeter in the McDonald’s Game?
He’s excited about that and I think Chase is going to be his teammate which is exciting, I know they both are excited to be there.
How have you noticed Luke and Chase’s relationship growing over the last year?
Well obviously it’s growing and growing because not only are they going to be Duke teammates, but they have already been teammates with USA Basketball, they went through the camps together and they communicate quite a bit. I think they are going to continue to be great friends and great teammates.
What kind of approach has Luke taken in recruiting other classmates to join him and Chase at Duke this next season?
Well, Luke’s a texter that’s for sure. He may talk with them here and there, but most of his communication is probably through texting. Obviously he loves Coach K and when you are at a Duke/North Carolina game, that’s obviously an unbelievable experience, so I’m sure he talked with guys there.
You mentioned the Duke/UNC game you recently attended. How was the experience different for you guys this second time around being there for that game?
Oh man, it was incredible. Last time we were there it was during an official visit and he wasn’t committed then, now this time, we’re sorta like already on the team with Luke being committed. This time it was like he was a teammate with the guys.
What was the relationship like with the guys this time around now that he’s committed?
Yeah it was great, they all came up to him and talked with him while he was shooting around a bit in Cameron and then we went to their shoot-around, they are just a bunch of great kids. He’s looking forward to being teammates with hopefully all of them, of course there’s a chance some may go pro but it was great with a few of them that he’s already been USA teammates with them from last year, so that was pretty neat to spend time with them.
Has he drawn close to any of the guys on the team?
Yeah I think he’s gotten close with some of them, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow were on the same team with him and he’s also gotten to know Grayson Allen. I think he’s gotten closer with a lot of them.
One of the things up for discussion it sounds like is the potential for Luke to play some point guard next year depending on who goes pro. Is Luke playing some point a part of the discussion with the Duke staff at this point?
They just told us that they aren’t going to stick Luke in one spot. They want him to play up to three different spots and they definitely don’t want to just stick him in the corner and say be a shooter and that’s it. You watch Coach K’s teams, he lets them be reactive and just play and they told Luke that we want you to do the same thing, we want you to play three different positions, he could play three different positions. One of Luke’s assets is he’s a really good passer and he can make plays with his hands is some things they have told us, they like the way he passes and he sees the floor pretty well. I think he would be like a typical point guard in that way but I also think he can be a little different point guard who can look to score some too. I mean look at Tyus Jones, Tyus is a heck of a point guard but he can also look to score too.
How is Luke preparing for the potential diversity of roles he could play one he gets to Duke?
We won’t do too much obviously during this season but once the season is over, we’ll get back into workouts and he’s going to keep working on his ball-handling and weight-lifting and the good thing is he’s going to be able to attend summer school at Duke, so that will help him.
Is Luke potentially doing the first session of summer school, or just the second?
You know I don’t know, that’s a good question. That’s something we’re going to be talking more with Duke about, right now I’m not sure. I know he’s going to be trying out for the U19 team that’s going to Greece. The thing with that is they try out and then they go like a week later overseas once the team is brought together, so I don’t know if we’re going to be going with him or not. That might be the first time that we don’t go and I’ll tell you, that would kill me (haha).
How have you seen Luke grow as a person from having his experiences with USA Basketball?
It’s been a great experience, just some of the best players in the US and it’s been great for him to do those things and be around some great guys. For him to go through the experience of tryouts, he really want to make the team last summer and I was there for the first couple of days and you could tell that he was just so focused. That’s another thing, it’s really helped him grow in his focus because all those players are good and you have to compete every day if you want to make that team, you can’t have any off days. You have to play and give it all you got every day and I think that’s why he was able to make the team.
Following up on that competitive atmosphere and what you observed of Luke in that, what are your thoughts about the environment he’s going to be in as a Duke Basketball player?
We love it, we think all it’s going to do is make him a better player, a better person and it will challenge him, which I think that’s something Luke really likes to be is challenged.
When you were on campus recently for the UNC game, what kind of things did you have opportunity to do outside of the game?
We were able to walk around campus, we didn’t do a lot to be honest with you. Luke was able to get some shots in at Cameron. We got to the game about an hour and a half early which was neat. Went to shoot-around and then the game, we didn’t have a lot of time and we had to leave early the next morning. We did meet some of the recruits and their families, we talked to Coach K for a few minutes and Coach Scheyer for a few minutes and that was it.
How has the communication been with Duke during the season?
They check in quite a bit. They talk with Luke quite a bit. They want Luke to continue to enjoy high school and then when the season is over, he’s going to start preparing for Duke. They don’t really demand anything, just that Luke keep working and keep getting better. It’s a great relationship.
Have they given Luke any helpful programs or tips on some workout suggestions for after his season is over?
They are leaving it up to us but they mention a few things here and there, nothing too major.
You mentioned Luke putting on weight in a prior response, do you guys have any updated measurements from recently for him?
No, he was sick for about three or four days a little ways ago and I think he lost about 5-10 pounds. He was up to about 190 pound when that happened. He’s fine though, he’s feeling a lot better. The good thing is we didn’t have any games when it happened. We’ve got playoffs coming up soon and we’re going to be in a really tough Sectional, should be some really good ballgames.