St. John's basketball 2008 Year in Review Part IX: DJ Kennedy

Part 0: Opening | Part I: Team stats | Part II: Boothe | Part III: Burrell | Part IV: Cavataio | Part V: Dele Coker | Part VI: Sean Evans | Part VII: Paris Horne | Part VIII: Tomas Jasiulionis

DJ Kennedy

(stats taken from BigEast.org, Statsheet, Ken Pomeroy's Basketball Prospectus, and my own calculations)

2007-2008: Freshman
Position: Guard, Forward
Height: 6-6
Weight: 208 lbs
Age: 18 (11/05/1989)
Home: Pittsburgh, PA

Kennedy dunk vs USFDJ Kennedy 2007-2008 Highs

High Points 18 (LIU)
High Assists 5 (S Hall)
High Rebounds 14 (St. Fr.)
High Rebounds (Conf) 9 (G'Town)
High FT Attempts 8 (USF)
High Steals 5 (S Hall)
High FG Att 13 (FDU)
High FG Att (Conf) 10 (S Hall)

Last year’s other late period signee, DJ Kennedy comes from the same Pittsburgh high school as Pitt’s star freshman, DeJuan Blair, near the Pitt campus. That didn’t keep Pitt from blowing St. John’s doors off in an 81-57 drubbing, but that’s an aside.

Kennedy was probably the most ready-to-play freshman, even more so than Justin Burrell. DJ seems to have a good sense of his game, and outside of some haphazard dribbling to push the ball up court, he played a solid role on the team. After all, that was what he was supposed to be to most observers – a role player and glue guy, a defensive stalwart, but not a star.

Every team needs one or more of these guys; players who don’t need to shoot to make plays. Kennedy fits this description to a tee. He shoots less than many of his teammates, but shoots a reasonably decent percentage (comparatively), gets some steals, and best of all, rebounds. The Red Storm would have been in a much worse position in every game without his rebounding. In conference, Kennedy pulled down rebounds at a slightly higher rate per 40 minutes than Burrell (5.04/ 40 mins for Kennedy vs 4.47/ 40 mins for Burrell).

On a team that doesn’t score enough, though, are Kennedy’s abilities enough to compensate for the minutes that Larry Wright wasn’t on the court, looking for his shot? Probably not, and probably not yet. Though next year, the team we will have won't have an aggressive shooter at shooting guard (unless Paris Horne takes on the Larry Wright role, or unless Kennedy looks for his shot more).

At first, I looked at Kennedy’s overall numbers and was a bit underwhelmed. During Big East play, his scoring dropped hard from 10.5 points per game to an overall 7.8 points per game; he scored 5.9 points a game in conference play. He went scoreless for three straight games – at Cincy, Villanova, and Marquette. Before the Duke game, he only had double digit scoring efforts in Big East play at South Florida (where he went to the line 8 times) and Cincinnati at home. In those scoreless games, he launched 1, 1, and 2 shot attempts.

Looking for a pattern, I calculated Kennedy’s non-conference averages and dug in a little. Obviously, his non-conference numbers are better, from playing against smaller and probably less talented opponents. But his conference decline might have to do with simple freshman fatigue. He shot slightly fewer 3-point attempts in conference season – 24% of his shots vs 27% of his shots out of conference – but they were still of the "open in the corner" variety. Why weren’t those dropping? And the most defense-independent statistic we have for an individual player is free throw percentage. He shot 78% against non-conference foes and 65% against conference foes.

Unless he was quaking at the sight of Pitt and DePaul while at the free throw line, I think he hit a wall mid-season. Maybe it took him a while to know what was an open lane in the Big East, and was reluctant to shoot. Maybe it was the return of Anthony Mason Jr, and all the shots he takes that threw him off his game/ rhythm.

Whatever it was, his last few games were solid:

Kennedy vs SCHEYERFACE* 10 pts/ 5 ast/ 3 rebounds/ 5 steals and 4 3-pt attempts against Seton Hall.

* 11 pts/ 7 rebounds/ 1 ast/ 0 steals/ 2 3-pt attempts against Notre Dame.

* 10 pts/ 4 rebounds/ 2 ast/ 2 steals 0 3 pt attempts, 4 free throw attempts against West Virginia.

And:

* 16 pts/ 3 ast/ 3 rebounds/ 1 steal/ 6 free throw attempts at Duke, where our man induced Scheyer Face (if you don't know about Scheyer Face, read here and here;

* 4 pts/ 2 ast/ 7 rebounds/ 0 steals, 0 3-pt attempts against Georgetown.

Those games followed his scoreless streak. An interesting thing about the second half of Kennedy’s season was that he drew more fouls; his free throw attempt to field goal attempt ratio went up from 40% to 57%. That’s encouraging for three reasons; Kennedy is crafty enough to get to the line, a skill this team will actually miss in Eugene Lawrence; DJ seems to know that sometimes the shots aren’t falling and he needs to be aggressive and drive to the hoop; and it indicates that perhaps he wasn’t overwhelmed by the competition, he was more beat up from a long season.

Or he could have been overwhelmed. We don’t know yet.

Numbers aside, DJ needs to work on his handle and his finish. He doesn’t seem to be an aggressive scoring type; though with the changes on the team, he may take on that role. But as it was last year, he found himself with a chance to lead many fast breaks, but his spotty handle slowed down his movement from one side of the court to the other. That has to improve. He is also a candidate for back up ballhandler. Even if St. John’s lands a freshman point guard, it will do wonders for the rotation to not HAVE to play that freshman guard heavy minutes. And a team should not be on the court with only one person able to bring the ball up. It’s a recipe for disaster, and a request to see trapping defenses.

I didn’t think Kennedy was very good at finishing near the basket; those crafty moves will come with experience. He could use to improve his strength and conditioning; it will allow him to become a better defender, to get some more "and-1s," and might help his jumper in the latter half of the collegiate season. If he can hit that open jumper with regularity, he’ll be an excellent complement to Burrell and Mason, and perhaps a burgeoning star.

All Non Conf Conf
Minutes Per Game 26.5 26.7 24.6
Effective FG Pct 48.8% 52.2% 45.2%
FG Pct 44.6% 46.2% 42.9%
3pt FG Pct 33.3% 44.0% 20.0%
3pt Att/ All Shots 25.4% 26.9% 23.8%
2 pt fg % 48.5% 47.1% 50.0%
FT Pct 70.6% 78.4% 64.6%
FT Rate 48.% 39.8% 57.1%
Points Per Game 7.8 10.5 5.9
Rebounds Per Game 5.8 7.0 4.9
Off Rebs Per Game 1.9 2.0 1.8
Def Rebs Per Game 3.9 5.0 3.1
Assists Per Game 1.4 2.1 1
Steals Per Game 1.2 1.4 1.1
Turnovers Per Game 1.9 2.6 1.4
Assist-Turnover Ratio 0.8 0.8 0.7
Blocks Per Game 0.3 0.6 0.2
Fouls Per Game 1.9 2.3 1.6
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