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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

October 9, 2011 at 2:48 PM

Counting down the Huskies — No. 9 Shawn Kemp Jr.

We continue the Washington countdown with the No. 10 player in our rankings and a freshman who was the last to join the 2011 class — Shawn Kemp Jr.
At 6 feet 9 and 265 pounds, Kemp is the heaviest person on the roster. He’s been working to drop weight and coach Lorenzo Romar expects his playing weight will be 250.
Conditioning is priority No. 1 for Kemp. If he gets into shape and is able to play in UW’s up-tempo style, he’ll have a chance to backup junior Aziz N’Diaye at center. Kemp will battle redshirt freshman Desmond Simmons and freshmen Martin Breunig and Jernard Jarreau for a minutes and a spot in the rotation.
Kemp’s advantage is his size, ability to rebound and defend and maturity. At 20, he’s two years older than the other freshmen. He spent the past two years away from basketball to fulfill academic requirements.
Kemp grew up in Georgia and attended high school at Canton, GA. In 2008, he committed to Alabama over Washington and Nevada. After being declared academically ineligible, he attended Hargrave Military Academy and committed to Auburn in 2009. He wasn’t admitted due to academic issues and didn’t play competitive organized basketball the next two years.
“It was hard, but I had to do what I had to to get to where I am now,” Kemp said. “But it was definitely hard. I’m here now so it was worth it.”
Playing at Washington also gives Kemp a chance to connect with his dad Shawn Kemp who starred with the Sonics and has settled in Seattle after retiring from the NBA. Junior plans to wear No. 40, the number his father made famous.
“Since I’ve moved up here, he’s been around more,” Kemp Jr. said. “We talk every once in awhile. The conversation is about everything, but mostly basketball.”
Here’s a transcript of a recent interview with Kemp.

(We’ve talked a few times now, where are you in terms of returning to competitive basketball?) “When we first started I really didn’t know anybody. I was just coming out for the team, but we’ve been together and with each other ever day for the past month and half or two months. I’ve been working out. I’m in way better shape than I was in the summer league. School just started so everything is coming together pretty good.”
(Conditioning was a big issue with you this summer. How is that going?) “Way better. When you asked me last time I was kind of struggling back then. I still have got room to build, but right now I’ve improved. I’m in like the best shape I’ve been in my life.”
(How does that manifest on the court? Are you able to go more possessions without getting tired or just being able to run with these guys?) “Just from the actual mile time. Getting up and down the court with these guys. They’re running all the time so I’m keeping up with them. That’s not easy.”
(You mentioned the mile time, how did that go for you?) “I was one of the people that didn’t make it. There were some people that didn’t make it. I was one of them. I actually have to run it (again). In high school I ran a 9:45 mile. Two months ago, I ran it in 7:16 or something like that. And then a couple of weeks ago, I got a 6:17.”
(And here the big men have to make it in 5:35 right?) “Yeah, 5:35. I’m aiming to to get 5:35. It’s going down lower every time.”
(When you think about it, that’s incredible.) “Yeah it is.”
(And I heard Aziz ran the second fastest time.) “He is a freak of nature. He can run like a guard. He was the second person to come in. It doesn’t faze him at all. He’s a good runner.”
(The one thing I notice about you, is your maturity. Is that just because you’re older is does it have something to do with your life and what you’ve been through?) “Just being older. That’s probably what it is. I’ve done a lot of things. I’m a little older than most of the freshmen here. I guess you can say I’m more mature. I don’t really know how to put that. I’m not going to get into trouble. I know that. Let’s put it that way.”
(Do you feel like a freshman?) “Yeah I do. When I’m walking around campus and don’t know have no clue where to go or what to do. On the team, I still feel like a freshman.”
(Are you looking forward to playing competitively again?) “Oh yeah.”
(What did you miss about it?) “I just missed the crowd. Everybody loving it and coming to see the games. Especially here. We don’t have a NBA team so everybody is going to be at the game. Being around people that love basketball. That’s what I missed the most.”
(What was it like being away from basketball?) “It was hard, but I had to do what I had to to get to where I am now. But it was definitely hard. I’m here now so it was worth it.”
(We talked about it before, but for the past two years what have you been doing?) “Working. Just basically school work. I was still working out, but I was so focused on doing school work that I didn’t really have time to work out. I was pretty much just into my books. School work was my main thing.”
(Some folks say when you have something you love taken away, it makes you appreciate it that much more.) “Trust me, that’s the truth. That’s the God’s honest truth because when I couldn’t play I wasn’t a happy person. I love basketball and without it, I was just depressed.”
(What do you want to do this year?) “I want to contribute as much as I can. I want to go out there and just show what I can do. Go out there and get rebounds. I’m not worried about scoring too much. Get rebounds. Play defense. And just make a name for myself, not because of my dad, but because of me.”
(We’ve touched on this also, but how will you handle the comparisons to your dad?) “I’m not around him really too much, but I’m used to it. People are nice here. There’s people that aren’t too nice, but for the most part it’s been okay. But I’m used to it now.”
(Why did you pick No. 40?) “They told me to take a day to find out what number I wanted. And I … I don’t know. … I couldn’t think of any, I literally could not think of any other number, but 40.”
(There’s a lot of numbers to choose from.) “[Laugh] There is a lot of numbers. I know, but it didn’t really feel like it at the time.”
(I hear you, but there’s a Kemp wearing No. 40 in Seattle. You got to understand that if you wanted to avoid comparisons with your dad, there were other ways to do it.) [Laughs] Yeah maybe. But we got to keep it going on. First off, that’s my dad. So it’s good.”
(How close are you guys?) “He’s been around. And since I’ve moved up here, he’s been around more. We talk every once in awhile. The conversation is about everything, but mostly basketball.”
(That’s got to help?) “Yeah it helps. He gives me a lot of advice. He’s been through it all. He’s done everything.”
(It’s unfair to suggest you’ll play like him.) “Yeah. We’re two completely different people.”
(How so?) “He’s a freak of nature. He did things that people just awed about. Of course I’m going to try to get to that level, but it’s hard to say I’m going to be at his level.”
(What has surprised you the most about making the transition to college basketball?) “That’s a good question. It’s a little early to say, but I’d say overall just the conditioning you have to be in. Being able to run a 6:17 mile. If you would have told me three years ago that I’m going to run a 6:17 mile, I would have never believed that. Being able to keep up with these guys is tough.”
(What type of role do you envision for yourself this season?) “Someone that tries to pick up the team. Just being out there and being in the post and doing what I do. I can’t really say because we haven’t practiced yet, but I know I’m going to do everything that I can.”

Comments | Topics: Aziz N'Diaye, Shawn Kemp Jr.


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