St. John's basketball in review: 2008-09 D.J. Kennedy

#1 - D.J. Kennedy

St John's logo2008-2009 Class: Sophomore

Position: Guard/ Forward

Height: 6'6"

Weight: 210

Age/ DOB: 19/ November 5, 1989

Home: Pittsburgh, PA

stats taken from Statsheet, kenpom.com, and my own calculations

2008-2009 Highs

High Points
23
(Long Island)
High FT Att
12
(Seton Hall, 11 made)
High Assists
7
(Marquette, 'Nova)
High Rebounds
13
(Howard)
High TO
5
(West Virginia)
High FG Att
16
(Cornell)
High 3pt Att
6
(Notre Dame, Cincy)

DJ Kennedy is a gamer. He passes like a shoot-first point guard, he rebounds the defensive end like a forward, and he didn't lay any DJ Kennedyhuge high turnover, no-score, no rebound stinkers. Even against Syracuse he contributed, a testament to Kennedy's game.

Thing is, Kennedy's game is nothing sexy. He doesn't have a quick release on his shot. He's not blessed with crazy hops. He is just tough, dogged, tenacious... and in a lot of ways, his game took a step back, though his tempo-free offensive rating improved.

In 2008-09 Kennedy played nearly 35 minutes per game in Big East play, 10 more minutes than he played the previous year. He took up significantly more possessions and shots (14% of the shots vs. nearly 20% of the shots), which might have affected his game.

Big East Play 07-08 08-09
2-pt Field Goal Pct 50.0% 35.6%

Kennedy's conference effective field goal percentage dropped from 45.2% to 41.6%, and it owed to a precipitous decline in his shooting percentages inside the arc, seen above.

That's a serious drop. But he was trying to put up points last year... unlike his freshman year, where Kennedy just seemed to NOT to try and score. One certainly hopes his true level of scoring inside the arc is better than that, but look at how he compensated for his errant shots in the table below:

Big East Play 07-08 08-09
3pt FG Pct 20% 36.4%
FT Pct 64.6% 76.2%
Free Throw Rate 57.1 60.6
Assist Pct 9.3% 21.6%
Turnover Pct 21.3% 19.1%

Kennedy took a higher percentage of shots outside of the arc, by the way (32% as opposed to 24% of his shots his freshman year). And he improved his accuracy on those 3-pointers, hitting 36% from distance.

But Kennedy also maintained an aggressive style and got to the free throw line more frequently as a percentage of the shots he took. And that aggression came with more assists, slightly fewer turnovers, and best of all, with a serious concentration at the free throw line, while the rest of the team clanked their free throw chances. Despite a serious decline in his makes inside the arc during conference play, Kennedy might have been the team's best offensive player - and certainly the best playmaker - down the stretch of the conference season.

But as the best playmaker on a team that struggled at times to make plays, that's damning praise; DJ is a good, effective player who often compensates for his limitations, but he is not of the ability to take the game over at both ends. He cannot be the player that, like Marcus Hatten years ago, can carry a team of mediocre performers - especially when their defense is not elite, and their turnover rates are high.

His impact on the floor for St. John's is high, and his game is developing nicely.

Impact on the 2009-2010 Season

All of that said, DJ Kennedy may be better served not playing iron man basketball. He played full 40 minute games 5 times; logged 40 minutes against Georgetown in the first/ overtime game; and played less than 30 minutes twice, once when he was kicked out against Cincinnati and in the blowout at DePaul. But what will his role be, with Anthony Mason Jr. playing the wing and taking shots, and Paris Horne and Dwight Hardy taking shots from the perimeter? That's a big question this year. On a very good team, DJ Kennedy would not be the every-game star; he'd be a complementary player who comes out of the weeds to carry the team for stretches when they're scuffling.

Here are some things DJ Kennedy may want to work on:

Improve shooting/ scoring off the dribble. When he slashes to the basket, Kennedy needs to convert better. At his rates, if he hits 50% from inside the arc, he will be the team's gritty superstar. Kennedy won't be a jump shooter, per se, but he will put up serious points.

Handle. Kennedy's ball handling skills are decent. But if he could get to the point where he can bring the ball up when the point guard is trapped? The team would have many versatile options. Moreover, if Kennedy can control his dribble and make passes off of the slashes to the basket, the forwards will get more easy dunks.

Smart Aggressiveness. Kennedy, especially with reduced time on the floor, can improve on being a playmaker - knowing when to take the shot, and when to pass the ball. On defense, he has had good games, and games where he might be a little too close to his man - like against AD Vassallo of Virginia Tech.

Kennedy is a versatile defender and will continue to be the hustle guy... but a hustle guy with skills. Can the Red Storm complement him with scorers, good defense, and a more favorable turnover ratio?

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