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July 29, 2013 at 4:40 PM

Shawn Kemp Jr.: “I want to be one of the go-to guys”

Had a chance to catchup with incoming junior Shawn Kemp Jr. last week. He talked about the struggles and strides he’s had at Washington.

Kemp, a 6-9 forward/center, had a minor role as a freshman, but he made major gains in every significant category last season. He improved his averages in scoring (1.6 points to 6.3), rebounds (0.8 to 3.0) and minutes (6.5 to 18.8). His field goal percentage dipped slightly (55.2 percent to 53.3 percent) and oddly his blocks plateaued at 16 despite increased minutes.

Kemp is at a crossroads in his college career. He finished the 2012-13 season with 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds in the 90-79 defeat to Brigham Young in the NIT opener. Kemp, who started the last 14 games of the season, was one of the few bright spots for the Huskies in the finale. He scored in double figures in three of the final four games.

However, it’s unclear if he’ll begin the season in the starting lineup. C.J. Wilcox, who led the Huskies in scoring and started every game last season, is the only player guaranteed a starting assignment while newcomer Perris Blackwell, who sat out last season after transferring from San Francisco, is the favorite to replace Aziz N’Diaye at center.

Kemp will contend with junior Desmond Simmons and redshirt sophomore Jernard Jarreau at power forward. Simmons made 14 starts last season, Jarreau seven.

Kemp is adapting his skills to play at the top of the key in coach Lorenzo Romar’s high-post offense, but the transition is akin to putting a square peg into a round hole. Kemp, who has a total of five assists in 55 games, isn’t a naturally gifted passer and UW’s power forward needs to have some playmaking ability. Whoever occupies that position also needs to be able to make a mid-range jump shot with consistency while Kemp has been more reliable around the rim.

Here’s the interview with Kemp.

(How is your summer going?) “Pretty good. I’ve been in the gym pretty much every single day. Been in the weight room every day. We’re still in summer school so we’re working with Romar a lot.”

(Is this summer different than your past two summers?) “Yeah it is a lot because there’s more that I have to do to get ready for the season. I got to be in the weight room a lot more. I got to get stronger. I get to better. There’s things I got to work on with my game so I can contribute to the team.”

(Does not having an overseas exhibition tour change things at all?) “That really doesn’t matter too much. Last year it was a good transition to kind of get up and down and see how it’s like because the year before I didn’t play that much. Now that I kind of know the rhythm it’s not that big of a deal.”

(If I could summarize your career I might say the first year was getting in shape in and getting acclimated to college ball. The second year was getting into the rotation. So what’s the third year going to be about?) “Third year is hopefully being one of the role players that you can count on. I want to be one of the go-to guys. One of the guys that is doing a lot on the team to get everybody else up. And hopefully we’ll win a lot of games this season.”

(What was your big takeaway from last season?) “We started a new system and it was kind of hard to get to. Now that we all kind of know what’s going on, we’ll have a better chance of working through it and everything. The freshman coming in, they’re already learning it so they’re going to be good. For me personally, it took me awhile to get the system down, but I got it pretty much down now so this next year should be even better.”

(How would you sum up last season?) “We had a pretty good start when the (Pac-12) season started, but we had a downfall. We tried to pick it up. Things didn’t work out like we wanted to, but this next year I’m confident we have the team to get everything we need to get done.”

(Are you more comfortable in the high post or on the low block?) “At this point right now, both. Either. If you would have asked me that last season I probably would have said the low post. But right now, I’m right there in the middle. So both.”

(What skills do you need at the high post spot?) “I got to be able to shoot. That’s what I’ve been practicing the whole summer. That’s what I’ll practice until the season starts. I got to be able to shoot. I got to be able to find the open man when he comes off screens. I got to be able to find my players.”

(What’s the range on that shot?) “About a 15-footer.”

(So is it normally an open shot or is it a one dribble, pull-up over an extended hand?) “I’m coming off screens, little side screens. It can be an inside pivot. Anything to get a shot off. That’s what I’ve been working on. A little bit of everything.”

(How many shots are you taking each day? And don’t exaggerate.) “Probably about 100.”

(Got to be honest, 100 shots doesn’t sound like a lot.) “No. No. No. That’s just that particular shot.”

(You mean from the high post?) “Yeah.”

(OK just checking. Because I know guys who’ll take 20 shots in one game. So you’re getting up more shots from other areas on the court. But on that particular spot where you think you’ll operate in the high post you’re taking an average of 100 shots a day.) “Yeah.”

(And in past years how much did you practice that shot?) “It wasn’t close. I would be in the gym and shoot just to shoot. But now I’m shooting to get results.”

(You know that’s one of my biggest pet peeves with young players. I know the game is supposed to be fun and you have to enjoy yourself on the court, but it always irks me when guys practice shots they know they’ll never take in games. Like when a 7-footer is taking three-pointers in warmups. Never made sense to me. Last I checked, you haven’t taken a three. Any plans to step out behind the arc?) “(Laughs) No. Not right now. I’m working on what I’m working on.”

(Do you have to be more of a playmaker at the high post spot?) “You do yeah. In Romar’s system you have to be a playmaker because if I don’t have the shot and I don’t have the duck, I have to find someone else open and get them the ball.”

(I know guys are coming and going and many haven’t been in Seattle yet this summer, but is the team starting to come together?) “The only people here right now are me, Quinn Sterling and Hikeem Stewart. And actually C.J. just got back a couple of days ago. We haven’t really done much as a team, us four. And the freshmen are here too. So they’re learning.”

(Of the guys you’ve seen, who has impressed you?) “I’ve only seen Darin (Johnson) and Jahmel (Taylor) and both of them are very good. They’re coming from high school and they’re already getting used to our system and they’re working good.”

(Have you had much chance to get on the court with the new guys?) “Just twice.”

(Seems like Johnson is more of a natural scorer and JT is a natural point guard.) “Yeah that’s pretty much it. Darin can get to the basket really good. And as you said Jahmel is more of a point guard, but he can still shoot and come off screens and stuff.”

(What do you think about Nigel Williams-Goss?) “Haven’t even seen him.”

(Sounds like you’re getting your best workouts when you’re with the coaches for individual instruction?) “Yeah.”

(What are you trying to accomplish in those workouts?) “Just getting ready for next season. We’re doing a little bit of everything.”

(What are you trying to accomplish in the summer league games?) “Not too much. I’m just trying to get up and down the court and stay in basketball shape. For big guys like myself that’s about all you can get out of this league. It’s totally different than from what Romar tells us what to do.”

(Can you and Blackwell play together?) “Perris is a really big guy. I can see me and him in the post working together, ducking and getting passes and everything.”

(If you did play together, does that put you at the high post?) “Probably. That’s pretty much what would happen. I’d be at the high post and he’d be more low post. But we’d go back and forth with it.”

(Almost difficult to believe, but you’re at the midpoint of your college career. It goes fast. You got maybe 60 or so games left. Do you have a sense of your potential?) “Hopefully I can be just a player that other players count on. I just want to be the guy that if we need a bucket, let’s go to Shawn in the post. That’s all I want to be.”

(It it important for you to start?) “Naw. That’s never mattered to me.”

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