Published: Monday, March 24, 2014 @ 8:07 PM
Updated: Monday, March 24, 2014 @ 10:14 PM
By: Marc F. Pendleton - Staff Writer
FRANKLIN — Luke Kennard went from being the most beloved figure in the history of Franklin High School basketball on Monday to someone that much of America will love to hate.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It happens,” said Kennard, who verbally committed to national power Duke University on Monday night. “I’m pretty sure it happens to every recruit who goes somewhere. My family and this community is going to support me and that’s what it’s all about. That’s all I care about.”
Landing Kennard was all Duke and a half-dozen other national powers cared about once Kennard revealed that he would commit this spring. Although he made up his mind about a week ago, he didn’t publicly announce the long-anticipated decision until Monday night before about 1,000 fans, teammates, community well-wishers and family at a packed Darrell Hedric Gymnasium at the school.
The event included the Franklin icon whom the fieldhouse is named after. The occasion also served as a celebration for Kennard being named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball last week, among many other player of the year honors.
Duke won out over Ohio State and Kentucky. A natural homebody, Kennard was linked to OSU because of its relative close proximity to Franklin. UK seemed to be in the running because he grew up a Wildcats fan and his father Mark Kennard played at nearby Georgetown College.
Michigan, Michigan State, Louisville and North Carolina also initially were in his final choices. He cannot sign until the early signing period in November.
Kennard informed all the schools that were in the running for his services that he wouldn’t be committing to those schools on Sunday.
Kennard insisted on speaking to Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski about the decision. Like so many other coaches to recruit Kennard, Krzyzewski and top recruiting assistant Steve “Wojo” Wojciechowski flew into Springboro’s Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport on Monday afternoon, made the short trip to Franklin and learned of the good news from the celebrated 6-foot-6 junior.
Kennard said he mentally committed after visiting the Durham, N.C., campus earlier this month.
“Just being around Coach K and the players and how the program was run, you could tell it was a really special place,” Kennard said. “I could see myself fitting in there. Coach K talked to me about that. I really appreciate what he’s done for me. I felt at peace with my decision and it was the best fit for me.
Kennard averaged a state-best 40.0 points this season. He also was good for 10.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.9 steals for the Wildcats (20-4).
He had a breakout offensive season, surpassing 50 points three times. He set most significant single-season and career offensive records, including a 59-point outburst in the final home game against Monroe.
Kennard anticipates playing early at Duke and not necessarily in any one position.
“Coach K said putting me at a certain position wouldn’t be doing me a favor,” he said. “He said I’m a playmaker; I’ll be playing everywhere.”
Kennard is easily the most heavily recruited area basketball player in recent hoop history. No other area boys player is believed to ever have suited up for the Blue Devils.
Alison Bales of Beavercreek played for Duke’s women’s basketball team as did Alexis Rogers of Lakota West before transferring to Bowling Green State University.
Kennard owns a 4.25 GPA and is a member of the National Honor Society. Also a football standout, he shared the state’s Division III offensive player of the year honors last fall. He intends to play football as a senior, but also may not.
Kennard likened Durham to Franklin.
“We had a plan to get it over with this spring,” he said. “It was hard keeping it in from all my friends. It was a struggle. I just felt a peace about it. Now I can enjoy my senior year and that’s what it was all about. It’s a big stage with a small, home-town feel. That’s what I really liked about it.”