Catching Up With Kenny Blakeney

While many former Blue Devils have moved on to careers outside of basketball, a few remain around the game including Kenny Blakeney. The former Blue Devil guard sat down with TDD to discuss the recent happenings in his life.

Most players would love to have to opportunity to play under one Hall of Fame Coach. You have played under two. You have also been an Assistant Coach to Lefty Driesell. Can you expand on the impact Coach Wooten, Coach Krzyzewski and Coach Driesell have had on your life?

It has been incredible, Coach Wooten laid down the foundation of what I know as a basketball player. I met him at age 14. To have a coach like Coach Wooten for 3 years is a tremendous advantage.

Coach K felt like a natural progression for me, playing for the best high school coach ever, and then the best college coach ever. Coach K brings competitiveness, energy, and knowledgeable to the game. He is so prepared. Coach K communicates and understands people. Coach Driesell gave me my first opportunity as a coach. Coach Driesell understood the business so well, he is one of the most intelligent people I have known in my life. He gave me a chance to learn the business. It was the best first job I could have landed. Coach Driesell is so knowledgeable in the business of coaching, he understands every aspect about it and wants the same for his assistant coaches. In teaching Assistant Coaches, he gives us a lot of responsibility. It was that responsibility that taught me a lot about coaching.

You started coaching immediately after college and have been doing so ever since correct?

Yes

In looking back at your time at Duke and all you accomplished there, being part of two national championship teams, going to three Final Fours and earning a degree from Duke, what were the most valuable lessons you learned at Duke and how have they affected your life both as a coach and as a person?

The most valuable lesson I learned is how to compete everyday. Coach K is so competitive. It is not by mistake his teams are successful. He understands what it takes to be successful. It rubs off on his teams and they are excellent every year. At Duke I learned how to be competitive in the classroom, in basketball and in the business world.

Do you ever get a chance to return to Duke and attend games?

I have not had a chance to return to Duke in awhile since the seasons are at the same time. I was there last summer for the golf event and charity game with the pro athletes though and that was fun.

What are your career goals as a coach? Where would you like to be 5-10 years from now?

My career goal is to be a head coach and I would like to compete for a National Championship. I feel I still have some growing to do in this business. If you stop growing you stop getting better. I want to be the best I can be in this business. I really enjoy my situation here at the University of Delaware. Being with Coach Henderson has been a blessing. This business is about timing, opportunity and being ready when the time comes. Certainly I want to be a head coach and I am doing my best to learn so that I can be ready when the opportunity comes.

Do you desire the opportunity to coach at Duke at some point?

To return to Duke would be a dream come true. I look at Duke as the pinnacle of college basketball as a player and as a coach. To work with people with that type of background and knowledge of the game would be great. Duke develops not only athletes, but young men. By playing under and observing Coach Brey, Coach Gaudek and Coach Amaker as my assistants while at Duke paved the way for me to be a coach. They interact well with the athletes. Watching them grow and develop as head coaches since leaving Duke is inspiring to watch. Coach Brey and I go all the way back to when I was in 9th grade at DeMatha. To know him and call him a friend has been wonderful.

While attending Duke you worked at Martha's Kitchen for the homeless, the Children's Miracle Network, and the Duke Mentor Program. What motivated you to be active in wonderful charitable activities such as these while you were there, especially with the busy schedule of an ACC student/athlete?

I like the old saying "It takes a Village to raise a child." I am a big part of that quote. Growing up I came from a single family home. My mom really worked hard to give her kids a chance to be successful. My mother spent numerous hours working Sundays and overtime so we could go to school, have clothes to wear and food to eat. I had Boy's Club coaches and friends parents to extend a hand in my development as a man. It only seemed right to do the same thing. For me it is second nature. I try to do something to help people daily. I know first hand how important role models and help is in the development of a child. I do not want to sound weird, but you have to almost view it as karma. If you have an opportunity to take, you should try to give back as well. In my career I have gone to many different cities to coach. Every place I have gone I have been able to take things away from there. So I also want to make sure I am also giving something back to that city.

Coming from the Washington DC area, what motivated you to attend a school like Duke? What was the deciding factor in your decision?

It was a done decision from the time I saw Johnny Dawkins, David Henderson and Mark Allerie's team play. Then after their games I would listen to those guys get interviewed and they all spoke very well. It was obvious they were well educated by the way they represented themselves and Duke University. To watch how they played together was an inspiration. Duke is a really good school. I always knew I wanted to go to Duke and play for Coach K and get an education from Duke.

Bobby Hurley was one of the best players in the history of college basketball. One of your roles at Duke was to push him hard everyday in practice. Did you find that a challenging role and what made it gratifying?

I can answer that question with your question. It was challenging because he was so good. I was pushing him and he was having success and so was our team. I wanted to compete and play as any player would want to. However, to know you are pushing the guy who is the heart of the team is also important. As a player, you don't completely understand how important roles are. As a coach now, you see why roles are so important. The team has to trust you in why an individual role makes the team better.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time and do you still play basketball?

I don't play any basketball anymore. I broke my ankle three months ago playing. I was playing with a bunch of football coaches and people from the athletic department here at the University of Delaware. It was a once a week thing and I was just trying to get some adrenaline going. It was a bad break. I am to the point now where I am working with out pain. I was hobbling around with a very swollen ankle and on crutches. It was my right ankle, so I was driving with a cast on which is not good. I also had a knee injury in college. I am 31 and I don't want to pop my achilles, which is about the only thing I have left. I jog a lot during the season and I also do yoga. In terms of hobbies, I enjoy everything, there is not one particular thing I enjoy doing the most. A lot of people don't know where Delaware is but I'm not far from Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, and where I grew up in Washington DC. I have a lot of friends up and down I-95, and I enjoy spending time with them.

What is in your cd player right now?

Marvin Gaye's CD "What's going on."

This question is for the ladies Kenny, are you married yet?

No, not yet. I am married to my work. That is my passion. The guys that are part of the team are my passion.

If Delaware made the NCAA tournament and faced Duke, how would that feel for you and Coach Henderson?

We would be thrilled as hell to be in the NCAA Tournament. Since Duke would be the opponent we would prepare to beat Duke. It would be weird. The NCAA Tournament makes for a one game season. I have never been an opponent against a Duke team. I watched the Notre Dame and the Missouri games against Duke in years past and my emotions were all jacked up. You want both teams to do well, but there can only be one winner. In that circumstance, it would be great to be in the NCAA tournament.

What outside of basketball do you miss most about Duke University and Durham, NC?

I miss sweet tea and I love BBQ. There is no sweet tea north of the Mason Dixon line. I miss going to places on college campuses where you can buy a whole meal for five dollars. I miss the weather. The people are wonderful there too.

Can you tell us a little about World One Sports Academy in Dallas, Texas. The sports academy you and Thomas Hill started together?

World one sports is an incredible organization and is designed and conceptualized to help kids. When Thomas came to visit me one summer in Washington DC, he spoke at Coach Wooten's Basketball Camp. While there Thomas observed all the fundamentals that were being instilled in athletes. We talked about how Washington, DC players were fundamentally sound and knew how to play the game. We wanted to take those fundamentals to Texas and develop players early. We were fortunate to be able to do that. Both Thomas and I are concerned about young people and academic development. It seemed natural to mix sports and student development. Our first year doing it, one of the first people to sign up was Chris Bosh. Thomas worked him out even when the draft stuff was going on this past Summer. To have a young man like that come through a new program and have as much success as he has had is awesome. We feel we are giving back to the community and we know we are doing the right thing. At World One Academy there is an academic side as well as a computer technology point. We teach health and hygiene classes. We give an SAT/ACT prep course. We want to prepare these men and women to have a chance to be successful in the future. We want to give them skills that will make them successful. Thomas is building World One Academy into a place where you have school during the day and sports when academics are done.

What can we expect from the Blue Hen's this coming year?

We are going to be young. We have six new players. We had one kid transfer in and we have five freshman. We will have a chance to be good. It will depend on our youth and our front court. Our back court is experienced, we have depth there, which is key. Our guards can really dictate the game. Our front court will be new kids and a few that are returning. They will have to catch up. They will give us some athleticism and toughness. We feel these guys will produce for us. The kids haven't done it at this level with the lights on yet though! What we are trying to do now is prepare them for when the lights go on so we can be successful.

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