By LARRY VAUGHT
FRANKLIN, Ohio — Jennifer Kennard sits on the front row at midcourt to watch her son, Luke, play basketball at Franklin home games — and normally has a capacity crowd with her because her 6-5 son has drawn such a huge following from fans and big-time college coaches. Luke Kennard, a junior, has narrowed his list to seven schools, including three — Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State within a short drive of his home. He has scored 40 or more points in his last six games.
Jennifer Kennard has been on unofficial visits with her son to Lexington and was in Louisville when Franklin played there. She shared these thoughts on her son, who is also an all-state quarterback with Division I offers in that sport as well:
Question: What is it like being Luke Kennard’s mom?
Kennard: “That’s all I am known as now. I substitute teach in Franklin, so I am a celebrity. Now that everybody knows who Luke is, it is like, ‘Oh, Luke’s mom is our sub.’ But he kind of just takes it in stride, so we do, too. He just plays. We are blessed, we are thankful, but we are just normal. I can see how other college players now that you just follow, I can see how their parents felt when their son was at this stage. It is neat. I could see how it could become overwhelming if you let it.”
Question: Do you enjoy the recruiting?
Kennard: “We do not let it become overwhelming. We stay grounded about it and keep him very grounded. We are just thankful for what he is doing.”
Question: With all the Kentucky fans in the Franklin area and the UK blood in the Kennard family, how does that impact you and Luke’s recruiting?
Kennard: “I will be honest with you. We love college basketball. I will watch it if I am home alone. I am watching college basketball. That’s who we are. I married into a family that were huge UK fans. We have good friends, Linda and Joe Heagen, and you don’t say one bad word about UK around here or you are going to hear it. I kind of married into that and we have been UK fans since Luke was a baby. We still love UK. But when your son is being recruited, you love a lot of schools. So now we root for a lot of people and we love college basketball. But there are a lot of UK fans in this area.”
Question: Once the UK room in your basement flooded, was it your idea not to keep it a UK room?
Kennard: “I think all of us thought that because at that point he was being recruited. Ohio State offered him after his eighth-grade summer, so we thought we probably shouldn’t pick just one team for the room. But his room is still a lot of UK stuff. He still has a UK wall. I have to be honest. He has always grown up that way, but we love college basketball. We follow a lot of the teams.”
Question: When Luke was little and your husband had him doing all these drills, especially to improve his dribbling, were you always on board with that?
Kennard: “I thought about that over and over. I feel like sometimes people probably think it was child abuse when you hear about him dribbling home with his other hand while Mark was driving the car. But that was just up the street. It’s not like it was three miles away from home. It was not bad. He is the best coach Luke has ever had. (Franklin coach) Brian (Bales) is wonderful and I am not saying anything bad about him or his AAU coach, but Mark coached him until seventh grade and taught him the most really. Mark worked hard with him.
“They have a great relationship. He is hard on him and Mark’s big thing is that you can’t take possessions off. Turnovers, things like that he doesn’t get on him about that. But you have to get up, 100 percent effort every possession. Growing up, that doesn’t always happen. Now he still takes some possessions off and Mark still doesn’t like that. He was hard on him but I was never upset about that.”
Question: Did you have to push him academically?
Kennard: “He’s smart. He’s not genius smart, but he has not had to work real hard to get A’s until this year. My daughter is a straight-A student and she works her butt off. She is 21 and a senior at Georgetown College now. Luke takes all honors classes and works, but he doesn’t have to work as hard as she did. I am strict about that. He is capable of A’s. That comes first to me.
“Basketball is not always going to be there. Maybe. We don’t know. That’s important to me that he gets good grades, and it is to Mark, too. He jokes about me being the grademeister, but he worries about grades, too. He is competitive. He does want that A.”
Question: Would he ever consider letting you beat him when you go into the gym and shoot with him now?
Kennard: “No. When my mom and dad were alive, they are both deceased now, and he was little, they would play games and he was so competitive then even. But with my mom, he would always try to let her win. My mom always said he was just a sweet kid because he has that vibe to him. He is a kind-hearted kid, he really is. But with my mom, he would kind of cheat to let her win things. He would not do that with me. We are very competitive. Always have been and probably always will be.”