May 20, 2013

Kennard and King form dynamic duo

Having one elite high major prospect on an AAU roster usually leads to wins for that team. Having two means big trouble for opponents.

Such is the case with the sixteen-and-under team for the King James Shooting Stars. On a roster that should see all nine players eventually land at the Division I level collegiately, two players tend to stand out above the rest.

Those players are Luke Kennard and V.J. King.

Kennard is a four-star shooting guard from the class of 2015, who is currently ranked no. 32 in the class by Rivals. At 6-foot-5, the Franklin (OH) sophomore is a big guard for his class, and has the versatile skill-set that makes him one of the more elite prospects in the class.

Kennard is a true triple threat on the court. He's a pure lefty shooter with a quick release from deep, he can score around the basket off of the dribble and he's an excellent passer who's capable of playing the point guard position. While he isn't the most athletic prospect, Kennard's overall skill package and combination of intangibles has drawn interest from some of the best in the business.

Currently listing offers from Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Xavier, Michigan and Indiana; Kennard took an unofficial to Kentucky last summer and has kept in some contact with the Wildcats coaching staff.

"I've talked quite a bit with Ohio State and Michigan lately," Kennard told Cats Illustrated. "We also hear from North Carolina and Indiana a lot as well. But no school is really standing out more than the others."

"We have talked with Kentucky, especially my dad, but not as much recently. But, I have been on a visit there last summer and it's a school I'm really interested in."

When it comes to recruiting Kennard the Wildcats might have a slight leg up on the competition; but not for the normal reasons. Kennard isn't overly drawn to the lure of all of the NBA talent that has gone through the Wildcat lodge in recent years, or the 2012 NCAA Championship or even the coaching staff. His family is drawn to something different.

The Kennard's are Kentucky fans.

Their youngest, Luke, addressed that on Saturday night after a King James 16u win, saying that all the stories are true.

"Growing up my family has been hardcore Kentucky fans," Kennard said. "We've watched almost all the games and it's a program that we just really love."

With some of the nation's most elite programs chasing after him, many doing so at a quicker pace than Kentucky, can Kennard see himself fitting in with the future of the UK program? In a word, maybe.

"To be honest it's kind of hard to tell," Kennard said with a laugh. "The roster switches up every year because they get so many great players that leave early, but maybe I could fit in there.

Now, King is a totally different story. The future five-star from the class of 2016 grew up around a blue blood program, but not the one that Cats Illustrated readers cheer for.

Originally from North Carolina, King moved from his home-state to Akron (OH) after his eighth grade year when his father changed job. Since moving, King has been enrolled in school at the former home of the last great prospect to go through Akron, LeBron James.

King attends St. Vincent-St. Mary's, and now that he also plays his summer ball with LeBron's AAU team, the hype of being the "next chosen one" is in full effect.

Even with all of the hype, King is still one of the premiere freshmen in the country. In addition to making the Rivals list of ten to watch from the class of 2016, the 6-foot-7 combo guard has been drawing national praise since he was as young as a seventh grader; so now, as a soon to be tenth grader, the pressure is just normal.

Still, King's father, Vincent, makes sure to shield V.J. as much as possible from the limelight; at times not even letting him know which schools have sent mail or offered scholarships.

"My dad handles almost all of my recruiting at this point because of my age," said King, "There will be time for me and all of that stuff later."

"I do know that Kentucky has been in contact with my family, but they're not one of the schools that I have talked to yet personally."

At this point, King says he isn't even thinking about which schools to look at; but he does have offers from Ohio State, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa State, Michigan and several others.

In addition to the offers, schools like Kentucky, North Carolina and Indiana have all shown varying levels of interest, and don't be surprised if King becomes one of the Wildcats top targets in the 2016 class.

Recently, the coaching staff offered Saint Louis guard Jayson Tatum, who is considered to be the top perimeter prospect in the 2016 class.

In comparing Tatum and King you'll find a lot of similarities. Both can play all three perimeter positions with excellent skill-sets at 6-foot-7. Both are equally comfortable playing the role of scorer or facilitator, and finally, both have a wealth of experience for their ages, having been placed under a microscope since their junior high days.

King, at this point, is a better athlete than Tatum. The freshman has become explosive around the rim, and with his great length, is really an impactful player at the basket. He might not be quite as cerebral as Tatum is with the ball; but expect to see King in the first group of 2016 prospects that Kentucky recruits hard, along with Tatum and a few others.

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