UMBC men’s basketball senior Keondre Kennedy recently chatted with PressBox about what he learned playing for Ryan Odom, what fans can expect from the Retrievers under Jim Ferry and more. The 6-foot-6 Kennedy averaged 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game last year.
PressBox: How did you become interested in basketball?
Keondre Kennedy: At first, I was kind of like a football player. I loved football. But then I started not to like it. My mother, [Lakeisha Walker], she always played basketball and she introduced it to me when I was younger, but it just never stuck [until later]. I just feel like she influenced me to play a lot.
PB: You have two sisters. Did they play basketball as well? Did you grow up in a competitive family?
KK: My older sister, [Kenyetta], played basketball in high school and my younger sister, [Kayla], she’s in ninth grade now. She plays. … There was always competition. My mother, she worked at a rec center, so me, her, my older sister and my dad, [Kennis Kennedy], we would play 2-on-2 — me and my older sister versus my mom and my dad. We’ve always been competitive. We kind of still are to this day, even with something like cooking — simple things like that.
PB: Why did you to choose to come to UMBC?
KK: I chose to come to UMBC because UMBC believed in me where no other school really did. I had a lot of schools really reaching out to me and stuff like that, but my grades started to slip. That kind of scared away a lot of the colleges. UMBC believed in me, basically. I had to get two A’s, a B — or something like that — and I ended up getting it. It was good enough for me to get into that school, so they just basically believed in me. I’m big on [going] where people want you, and they wanted me.
PB: What is your favorite memory so far at UMBC?
KK: I really don’t have one yet — I feel like the best is to come — but so far it’s probably when we tied for the [America East] regular-season championship [in 2020-21].
PB: How big of a challenge was last year given all the challenges that COVID presented?
KK: Last year was tough, especially because of COVID. We had a couple little bumps in the road, but we tried our best to keep it in high spirits. Say somebody came down with COVID or something like that, we all said, “We know what we’ve to do. When we get back, everybody just be ready to work because we all have the same goal.”
PB: You played for Ryan Odom for two years before he moved on to Utah State. How did playing for Odom benefit you?
KK: When I first came in, they kind of had me playing on the wing, not really on the ball too much. But after we had a couple injuries and stuff, he called me to his office one day and told me that he wanted me to handle the ball a little bit more, so I started getting reps. When I first started doing it, I wasn’t comfortable with it. The more I was at that position, the more I got comfortable. I just appreciate him for doing that because I wasn’t comfortable with it at first, but now it’s like second nature to me now.
PB: Your new coach is Jim Ferry. What has practice been like? What can fans expect?
KK: Honestly, I feel like fans are going to love the way we play. This is the system that fits my playing style very well. The fans can expect us to put a lot of points on the board and play really fast.
PB: What’s your favorite thing about UMBC and the Baltimore area?
KK: There’s some real good food. I’m a food guy, so there’s a lot of choices right there that you can eat. I eat Chick-fil-A in the morning a lot. … Baltimore area, probably the Harbor because there’s a lot of things you can do down there. You can ride the little scooters, you can go get food. There’s just a lot of things to do and it’s right by the water, so it’s kind of nice.
PB: Who was a player you looked up to early in your college career?
KK: I really didn’t look up to any other guy. I’m real competitive, so I always feel like we’re on the same level or I’m better. … My favorite player was Allen Iverson, but I watch more Kevin Durant because of his slight frame. I’ve kind of got the same frame, so I kind of look up to him a little bit.
PB: What advice would you give to younger players?
KK: My advice is just to work hard. A lot of people say they’re hard workers, but they’re really not. I don’t think they understand how hard it is to get just to this point and then to get beyond this point. You really have to put in a lot of work. That’s one thing I can say. I’ve been putting in a lot of work since I started playing and it’s been paying off. So that’s the advice I would give, just put in as much work as you can — always be in the gym, always shoot. If this is really what you want to do, if you really love it, you’ve got to put in the time.
PB: What are your goals for after basketball, whenever it ends?
KK: After basketball eventually I want to coach and basically just give back to young kids and stuff like that.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of UMBC Athletics