As part of our Jordan Classic coverage, Finish Line polled 10 of the finest up-and-coming players in America about what it means to them to play in the game that bears Michael Jordan’s name, among other topics. Today, the spotlight belongs to Luke Kennard and Ivan Rabb.
Luke Kennard (@)
A local legend in Ohio, Kennard made national headlines when he passed a certain player by the name of LeBron James on the state’s all-time scoring list. Of course, that can happen when you score more than 40 points per game. The sharpshooting lefty most recently lit up the Nike Hoops Summit for 22 points, though he sat out the Jordan Classic with knee tendinitis. The No. 24 player on the ESPN 100, Kennard will play for the defending National Champion Blue Devils next year.
You’re probably a little sick of hearing about LeBron James by this point! It’s a great honor to pass him, though.
It was pretty cool! I didn’t really know how close I was during the game; I knew I needed 44 points or something like that to beat him. And there were some students keeping a countdown on a whiteboard, so I saw it every time I scored a basket, and it got down to two. I was like, ‘Oh gosh!’ So I hit a three, and the place went nuts. We just went to a little pizza place afterwards and had a good time with my friends and my family. So it was pretty cool.
You were the leading scorer for your team in the Hoop Summit. How was that experience?
We had a great coach, Eric Flannery, from St. Edwards, and he knew how to bring a team together in a short period of time. It’s not like we’re a whole high school team, a lot of those guys had never played together. So we connected, had great practices.
And then in the game, they gave me the ball and I hit some shots. Leading scorer for Team USA the past three years has been a Duke guy. Hopefully we can carry that on next year. It was a good time, I had fun.
I remember the spring before I went to Duke, I was really excited to watch the games knowing I was going to be there the following year. What was it like watching this championship run knowing you’re going to be a part of the program next year?
Oh man, it was unbelievable. Just knowing that I get to learn from those guys that have already been there and the coaches, it’s just really exciting. Duke’s a great place on and off the court, so whatever they throw at me, I’m ready to accomplish that.
You seem like a pretty laid-back guy, but I’m sure you want to show your best when you’re around so many other top players.
These are All-Star Games, so you kind of have to keep that in your head. Some guys just want to go and do some 1-on-1 stuff, but I like being a team player and just having a good time with that — scoring the ball, playing defense, rebounding.
What is it like playing in front of so many NBA scouts?
We had a practice one night (at Hoop Summit), it was a scrimmage at the Portland Trail Blazers’ facility, and it was just packed with NBA scouts. It’s a little nerve-wracking when you walk in there and they’re all just watching you! But I had some good practices and a good game there, so it was fun.
Speaking of it getting nerve wracking with people watching you, Michael Jordan usually watches this game. What does he mean to you?
He’s a role model to a lot of people, still to this day. I’ve seen highlights of him, and he’s the best player ever to play the game of basketball. You can learn a lot from him, so with him here, that’s awesome. I’d love to meet him. That’d be unbelievable.
What’s your favorite Air Jordan, if you have one?
Man … That’s a good question. I don’t know if I can pick! There are a lot of good ones.
** Stay tuned later today to get the scoop from Ivan Rabb and tomorrow to get the word from elite guards Dwayne Bacon (Florida State) and Eric Davis (Texas) as our coverage of the Jordan Brand Classic continues.