The summer months are a very stressful period for fringe NBA players like D.J. Kennedy, the 6'6" swingman who graduated from St. John's in 2011.
Players in Kennedy's situation are concerned with landing a spot on a NBA roster or signing with a professional team overseas, hustling for a contract with hundreds of other talented former college players.
On Sunday afternoon, the former St. John's standout was finally able to enjoy a moment of contentment this summer, hoisting a championship check and basking in the glory of being the last team standing. Kennedy scored 24 points to help his team, Overseas Elite, defeat Team 23 and win the $1,000,000 prize at The Basketball Tournament, shown on ESPN and played at Fordham University, so close to Kennedy's college home at St. John's.
Overseas Elite's journey to the championship was far from certain.
Kennedy, who took home a $100,000 share of the prize money, was not exactly sure how this team even came into formation. If it weren't for the travel heroics of former Oakland University star wing Travis Bader, Overseas Elite might have never competed in The Basketball Tournament. Bader rushed from his final Orlando Summer League game and showed up just 40 minutes before the tip-off of the first round game to give Overseas Elite its 5th player.
"To be honest with you I have no clue how this team came together," said Kennedy. "Paris Horne called me and asked me if I wanted to play. I wasn't even sure if I was going to be able play because I was playing summer league. I missed the first few games, but they advanced and I was able to meet them in Chicago."
Even after Kennedy arrived to provide a lift for Overseas Elite, the team found itself short handed. Jhondre Jefferson and Shane Lawal, the team's big men, were unable to suit up for a large portion of the tournament forcing Kennedy, a forward by trade to slide over to center.
Despite lacking size - Kennedy is tough and strong, but still weighs 210-215 pounds - the team was able to flourish due to his tenacity and the outstanding play of Kennedy's former college teammate, Paris Horne, who scored 10 points in the championship game. The comfort level between these two former college teammates is what ultimately helped Overseas Elite transcend the field of 97 teams.
"I love playing with Paris ever since college," said Kennedy about his former college teammate. "I know what I am getting every time he steps on the court. He is going to play hard. He is a great defender and great athlete. It is always easy to play with guys like that especially since we played four years of college together."
Now that the tournament has come to a close, like many of the pros who participated, Kennedy must find work for the upcoming season.
Kennedy, who has exactly two games of NBA experience and two years in the NBA D-League, would prefer a return to the NBA. But a return to the NBA won't be easy, despite being a D-League All Star in 2013.
A more likely destination for him would be in one of Europe's top professional leagues. The forward from Pittsburgh has made a name for himself playing for four teams in the last two years all over Europe - in Germany, in Russia and in Israel.
Kennedy won an Offensive Player of the Year Award in Germany, and has averaged double-figures in points in each of his stops.
Kennedy acknowledges that this life can be arduous at times, but he still loves his career.
"It's tough," he lamented. "It's a lot of ups and downs. You've just got to fight through it. It's basketball. It's something you love to do. You cannot take it too seriously. It's a job, you getting paid for something you love to do. I think once you accept that, and just appreciating the opportunity to travel the world, it makes it a lot easier."
Although Kennedy has been playing thousand of miles away from his old stomping grounds in Queens, he still keeps tabs on his old programs.
"The direction they are headed in is great," Kennedy said. "I am happy for Chris Mullin. He is a great guy. He always came around and supported us the years I was there. I think he is going to take the program in the right direction. There is a lot of young talent and it might take awhile, but I think Chris will get the job done."
Hopefully for Red Storm fans sake Kennedy's predictions are accurate.