Keondre Kennedy, last year’s leading scorer for the Labette Cardinals and the reigning KJCCC Freshman of the Year, is Division I bound.
After passing one final class to earn NCAA eligibility this summer, Kennedy signed with the UMBC Golden Retrievers earlier this month and will join the program next week.
“I’m really happy for him,” Labette head coach Jerrod Stanford said. “I’m proud of the work he put in. He came in and took care of business on the floor. To be out of here in seven months, you also have to take care of business in the classroom. He did that so he could get this scholarship opportunity.”
Kennedy also earned First Team All-KJCCC honors in his first and only season with the Cardinals. A native of Atlanta, he was third in the KJCCC in conference scoring at 17.9 points per game. Over the course of the season, he averaged 18.3 points per game to go along with 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
“The stage was never too big for him,” Stanford said. “Some of his most productive games were against big-time JUCO programs. More than anything it shows that he’s ready to play and not scared of any situations. That’s definitely one of the biggest things I took away from his year.”
Kennedy said his goal coming into his first season at Labette was to advance to the four-year level after just one campaign.
“My first thought was that I knew I wanted to advance past Labette,” Kennedy said. “My goal was to one-and-done it, and that’s what I was able to do. I chose UMBC because they really gave me a chance. From the beginning of the summer, I wasn’t eligible to transfer and that scared schools off. But UMBC had hope in me to do what I had to do in the classroom.”
UMBC earned itself a popular brand in college basketball two years ago when the Golden Retrievers made history by becoming the first-ever No. 16 seed to take down a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UMBC defeated Virginia 74-54 in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Kennedy, who was a senior in high school when UMBC pulled off its historic upset, said he watched the game live.
“UMBC messed up my bracket that year,” Kennedy said. “But they caught my attention there, I figured they might actually be nice.”
The Golden Retrievers went 21-12 last year under head coach Ryan Odom and finished third in the America East Conference.
“It’s a really great opportunity for him,” Stanford said. “He loved the staff there and the way they play. It’ll be a great fit for him. There were a lot of schools that recruited him, but UMBC was the right place for him to go and not come back here.”
Kennedy echoed the sentiment of feeling that Odom’s system was a good fit for his play style — Kennedy was a proficient, length shooter that shot 40% on 3-pointers last winter.
“On my visit, the coaches went over the offense and told me where I’d be on the court,” Kennedy said. “I felt like it was the perfect for me. The system is constant motion offense. I like that.”
Kennedy is the second Div. I recruit to come out of Labette since Stanford took the job in 2015. Kashawn Charles went to Eastern Illinois after one season at Labette and made his NCAA debut last winter.
“The kids have been coachable,” Stanford said. “They all work hard. Kashawn came in and nobody knew about him, but he signed a full-ride scholarship in the first semester. That doesn’t happen if you don’t work hard and have good parents that support them. I don’t know if it says anything about me. We don’t have a secret sauce. We had two really talented players that did what we asked them to do and saw success from it.”
Kennedy credits Labette with making his goal of reaching the Div. I level become reality.
“Without Labette, I don’t know where I would’ve been,” Kennedy said. “I appreciate Coach Stanford for giving me the chance. He was the only one to give me a chance, and I made good on it.”
While Stanford, who is coming off his first winning season with the Cardinals, must now replace his most productive scorer, he’s ecstatic to send another player to the NCAA ranks.
“It’s a big deal to get the opportunity to go to a Division I school that’s on the rise,” Stanford said. “They have good facilities and a president that’s bringing the school up. For Keondre and his family to be a part of that is great. He’s on to the next step of his journey.”