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Checking in on an old friend: D.J. Kennedy dominating in Turkey

Former St. John’s star leading Turkish club to success

Big East Basketball Tournament: Marquette v St. John's Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images

Maybe next summer D.J. Kennedy will lead his team to a fourth-straight title at The Basketball Tournament in the United States. But Kennedy is excelling in the FIBA Champions league and in league play for his club, Pinar Karsiyaka in Turkey.

A four-year starter at St. John’s who played in the D-League and in a few NBA games, Kennedy has been one of the top players in the second year of FIBA’s Basketball Champions League.

Kennedy is second in the league in scoring at 20.7 PPG on 53.8 percent shooting and first in rebounds at 9.9 per game. He has registered a double-double in four of the seven regular season games he played played for Pinar Karsiyaka. He had season-highs of 30 points and 13 rebounds in a 96-91 overtime win over UCAM Murcia on November 8.

Pinar Karsiyaka (based in Izmir, the third-largest city in Turkey) is 6-3 in a tie for second in Group A. Kennedy’s absence in two straight games earlier this month was key for Pinar as the team dropped both games. However, he returned with 27 points and nine boards to lead Pinar to an 82-76 win at Juventus Utena on Wednesday.

Pinar Karsiyaka is the seventh different international team Kennedy, 28, has played for since leaving St. John’s as the program’s 12th all-time leading scorer. He was the team’s third-leading scorer during his senior year as the Red Storm returned to the NCAA Tournament after a near decade-long absence in 2011. Kennedy tore his ACL in the Big East Tournament against Syracuse, and St. John’s was later bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by 11th-seeded Gonzaga.

Kennedy had a two-year stint in the NBA G-League and four tries in the NBA Summer League. He appeared in two games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2011-12 season. He was waived after appearing in one preseason game for the Denver Nuggets last year.

Kennedy was the top scorer in Basketball Bundesliga in the 2014-15 season for MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany. The Pittsburgh native also had stints playing professionally in France, Israel, Russia and China before signing with Pinar Karsiyaka this season.

Kennedy has found his greatest amount of success post-St. John’s with Overseas Elite in the annual The Basketball Tournament, leading a squad composed of mainly North American-trained players playing abroad professionally to three straight championships (2015, 2016, 2017) in the open-application summer tournament.

Kennedy scored 24 points in the 2015 title game to win Most Valuable Player. The team has totaled $5 million in prize money from the three championship wins.

Pinar Karsiyaka have five games left in group play to lock up a spot in the Round of 16 beginning in March. Their next game against EWE Baskets Oldenburg (also 6-3) on January 9 could help determine seeding for postseason play.