FRANKLIN, Ohio — Ask athletics director Rodney Roberts what makes Luke Kennard a special athlete, and he has a quick answer about the 6-5 basketball/football standout at Franklin (Ohio) High School.
“Grab any student in the hallway and ask him about Luke and no one will say a bad word about him,” said Roberts, who is also Franklin’s football coach. “That’s the best way to describe him. We see it a lot in youth sports and even high school where a lot of jealousy can develop, but we’ve not really had that with him. Our community from kids and parents to senior citizens have kind of embraced him and gotten excited and gotten behind him. That’s a testament to him, but eve more of a testament to his parents, Mark and Jennifer. Luke is just a humble, modest kid who is a great athlete.”
The 6-5 Kennard now has college basketball offers going into his junior season from Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Michigan State, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Ohio State. He also has a football offer from Louisville and interest from numerous other schools, including Ohio State.
“He’s just a winner. Anything he’s a part of whether it is football, basketball or in the classroom, he wins,” basketball coach Brian Bales said. “He’s a 4.3 (grade-point average) student. He’s No. 4 (academically) in his class. On the football field, he went 9-1 as a freshman and sophomore during the regular season and got his team into the playoffs both years. In basketball he’s started every game for two years. We’ve gone 40-5 and won back-to-back league championships. He was MVP of both teams and Division II player of the year in Ohio.”
He threw for more than 2,000 yards and a school-record 26 touchdowns (with seven interceptions) in 2012. He averaged 27 points per game in basketball last season has 992 career points. His coach is one of only four players in Franklin history to ever score 1,000 points and Kennard likely will become the first to reach 2,000 points.
Bales says his skill level is extremely high. He says numerous Division I head coaches talk about him having an “old school” game like former greats Pete Maravich and John Havlicek.
“He is 6-5, has great vision on the court and can see over people,” Bales said. “Ever since he was a little boy, his dad made him work at his skills like dribbling with both hands, seeing the court, shooting. All the big-name coaches are impressed with his skills.”
Bales thinks depending on where he would play in college that he could play point guard, shooting guard or small forward.
“He can do a lot of things. There have been numerous times that coaches have told me one of the intriguing things about him in the part that he can play multiple positions,” Bales said. “He scores a lot for us. He’s going to be one of the top shooting guards in the country. He shoots a high percentage, but most coaches can’t believe his great court vision. He can make passes like old school players.”
Roberts said Kennard “really improved” last season and likely will continue to improve.
“The football process is a little slow. He plays 80 to maybe 100 basketball games a year to get better,” Roberts said. “In football, he gets 10 a season. But he’s everything he’s built up to be. He’s a great student, great person, very grounded. He’s very quiet about all this attention. If you did not know him, you would never know he’s being recruited like he is because he never talks about it. He is a kid who loves his friends and loves his hometown and likes to have fun. He’s just a good kid who is also a great basketball player and great quarterback.
“On the field, he has great vision. His basketball vision translates to the football field as well. He has great moxie. He never gets rattled. He’s never too excited or too low. He’s so competitive, too. I have coached some all-star games and coached some players who have gone on to professional careers and he gets it just like they do. You can just tell elite kids and that’s Luke. He is that kid who just wants to win and can make you win.
“To be honest, a lot of football coaches are waiting to see if he is all-in on basketball in college or whether he will play football. My only response is, ‘When I know, you’ll know.’ Guys have more access to him during the AAU circuit (in basketball). But if they think he will play college football, he will has as many, or maybe more, suitors than he does in basketball.”
Roberts and Bales have a unique relationship that helps Kennard be able to compete in both sports.
“I have known him since he was born. His basketball coach, his family and I all live in the same neighborhood. I have known his mom and dad forever. My son is a senior and played Pee Wee (football) with him. I have seen him in baseball, travel basketball, rec basketball. I actually coached him in Pee Wee.
“You could tell from a very age that he was special and gifted and had real talent. He could be the shortstop or pitcher in baseball or probably pick up golf clubs and be a scratch golfer. He was always that good.”
Roberts, Bales and Mark Kennard all went to Franklin High and played multiple sports there.
“Franklin is a small town. It’s neat that on Fridays we are all at the football games and on Tuesdays and Fridays we are all at basketball games,” Bales said. “We have to share athletes. But we’ve never had a guy like Luke. He is a once in a lifetime athlete. But we are all friends and it’s not like his coaches are not people he knows. So it works well.”
Kennard is playing in Chicago with the King James Shooting Stars' 16-and-under team this weekend and then will head to Florida for another national event.
“I am not ashame to admit that I sat down with his parents to talk about the summer schedule,” Roberts said. “He is our quarterback and there would have been no sense to make a summer schedule that he couldn’t be at. There are things he has to miss, and that’s okay, but he once he gets back from Orlando we will have three days of camp, take three days off and then start two-a-day workouts. He makes 90 to 95 percent of the things we do because we work with the basketball program with him just like we do with other guys that play multiple sports.
“Whether he chooses football or basketball (in college), I am a Luke Kennard fan. His talent is going to take him as far as he wants to go. He’ll be a big-time college football player or big-time college basketball player. He will have the opportunity to play at the next level after that, too.”