By LARRY VAUGHT
Before his son took an official visit to Duke, Mark Kennard was sure that he would either pick Kentucky or Ohio State to play his college basketball. Instead, Luke Kennard liked everything about his trip to Duke — it reminded him of the small town intimacy of Franklin, Ohio — and the 6-6 junior guard announced this week he would sign with Duke.
“He was adamant about where he wanted to do. He sent me a text at work even,” Mark Kennard said. “I asked him what about taking official visits to Kentucky and Ohio State just to make sure, but he said that would just be a waste of their time and unfair to them. I really liked John Calipari and Thad Matta, but Luke had to be selfish picking a school. It’s his life and he has to do what he likes.”
Still, Kennard was a player that seemed destined to play at Kentucky. There are numerous UK fans in Franklin. His parents are Kentucky fans. His grandfather has had UK basketball season tickets. He grew up a Kentucky fan and in his room there is a frame photo of him when he was young getting his shirt signed at a Kentucky game by players with him wearing a UK uniform.
“Duke is on a big stage, but he felt comfortable with the small town setting,” Mark Kennard said. “I was always a huge Kentucky fan. Luke was, too. Kentucky has great people and that’s what makes this tough.
“Those are tough calls to make to coaches at Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan and North Carolina. We actually waited three or four days to make sure what Luke wanted to do and then I wasn’t going to call those coaches right as they started NCAA play. I waited until they were through playing last weekend.
“Coach Cal was on a plane when (assistant) Orlando (Antigua) called me. They were great about it. I think they were disappointed, but they understood. It’s part of the business but it was tough on Jennifer (Luke’s mom), Luke and I because we had built relationships with these people. Jennifer cried all day and had to leave the house when we were making the calls. The guys at Kentucky were great to us. They didn’t holler at us or cuss us when we told them. They were classy and understood. They were disappointed, but they wished Luke well. I really liked coach Cal, and our whole family did. That’s what made it tough.”
Local Kentucky fans were disappointed, too.
“Some UK fans were very happy for us, some probably hate us now,” Mark Kennard said. “But they all know Luke had to go where he felt most comfortable. I am proud of Luke for making a decision and knowing what he wants. He wants us to see him play, but I told him never to let that be a roadblock to where he went. The UK fans here who know him feel the same way even though I know how much they were all hoping he would go to Kentucky.”