Probably as much as anyone, I have followed Shawn Kemp's career with extreme interest. Originally from Indiana, basketball runs through my veins, but it was Kemp who baptized me and made me a zealot of the game at the age of 9. Everybody goes to watch high school basketball on the winter weekends in Indiana, but when those games include the greatest players in the nation, church is always full and the congregation is feverish. Being able to watch the country's top high school star play for four years at your school is something that can never be matched. I was fortunate enough that the adults around me at the time knew what a special ride this was going to be and from Kemp's 4th game in a Concord Minuteman jersey until his last four years later, we didn't miss one single game, home or away. (along with thousands of others) Even though I was yet a teenager, that span was a memorable and amazing time.
Shawn Kemp was not the first great Indiana High School star - see Robertson, Van Arsdale, Bird, Mount, McGinnis - and Kemp certainly wasn't the last, but he was obviously a new breed of basketball star.
In Indiana there had never been a Shawn Kemp. In a state where basketball is a religion, fundamental, classic play is the bible. Even former athletic greats from the state like Robertson, Jay Edwards and Michael Warren, had been prototypical Indiana players in their dedication to the core aspects of the game. Not Kemp. Even as a still gangly freshman Kemp's game was more Chicago playground then Indiana barnyard. At the age of 15 his dunks were so rim-rattling and out of place that he was often called for "hanging on the rim" violations because refs hadn't seen many dunks in games and none with such authority. As Kemp's career went on his play and style matured to beyond what even the best college players of the time were capable of. He had the strength of a true power forward but could play with the grace of a quick small forward. His defense was as tenacious as his offense, often grabbing shots mid-air instead of blocking them.
His four years in high school were marked with great success in the regular season losing only 7 games, but in the tough Indiana single class tournament of the time, Concord only advanced to the State Championship game once, being defeated by over 20 points. Despite being named by many publications as the national player of the year he came in third in Indiana's coveted Mr. Basketball race. Most people now know he was snubbed because he picked the University of Kentucky as his college choice, not an in-state school.
As a testament to his pioneering play Kemp became only the 2nd player ever to be drafted to the NBA without playing a college game, just one year after high school. He immediately became one of the most feared and respected players in the league.
And the rest, as they say, is history...
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Brent Kado (avantchicago)
Dec 13, 2008
Mar 15, 2009 05:15 AM UTC
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