When Franklin (Ohio) sophomore Luke Kennard was asked to guess who he tied for sixth all-time at the Beach Ball Classic for most points in a game with the 43 he poured in against Orem (Utah) on Saturday, he shot for the top.
“Umm, I’m thinking maybe Kobe Bryant,” Kennard said. “I remember reading something about him in some paper that he put up some points here.”
Good guess. Kennard in fact tied Bryant for the sixth-most points in tournament history. Bryant posted 43 twice for Lower Merion (Pa.) in 1995.
Everyone is still chasing Mike Bibby, who holds the top two spots with 48 and 45 for Shadow Mountain (Ariz.), also in ’95.
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“Luke was special,” Franklin coach Brian Bales said. “To get 43 points in a tournament like this against a defending state champion that plays as hard as they do on the defensive end, I’ve said for a long time the sky is the limit for Luke. I know he’s ours and I’m biased, but I think he’s the best player in our state.”
The 6-foot-5 Kennard hit 13 of 24 shots from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range, and was 12 of 13 from the free-throw line. The effort wasn’t enough for his team, however, which fell to Orem 86-77 to fall to 1-2 in the tournament.
“That was a real fun game,” Kennard said. “It’s exciting [to tie Bryant], but at the same time I thought the team was phenomenal tonight. I’m thankful to be playing with those guys.”
With two-plus years of high school ball remaining, Kennard is open to offers from colleges. “There’s no reason why everybody in the country won’t be calling him,” Bales said.
L.J. Peak should be familiar to Beach Ball fans, and followers of high school basketball in South Carolina.
Peak played in the Beach Ball Classic last year as a star sophomore at Gaffney, which went on to win the South Carolina Class AAAA state championship. He was considered one of the best sophomores in the state and was largely the reason the Indians were invited to participate at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center last December.
He’s back again this year, but in different colors.
Peak and his parents moved to Chicago over the summer, and he’s participating in the Beach Ball this week as a member of Whitney Young High.
“It’s just a change; something new,” Peak said. “Me and my parents talked about it and we just happened to end up in Chicago.”
Peak has other family members in Chicago, and he said the move wasn’t made so he could play basketball at Whitney Young. But he’s not complaining, either, that he ended up on the team considering the Dolphins are ranked No. 4 nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent25.
“It’s a pretty fun team to play with,” Peak said. “It’s a big difference [compared to last year]. It’s a better team.”
His duties haven’t changed much this year despite the new jersey. “It’s pretty much the same role,” Peak said. “I’m a scorer and play defense; just play my game.”
Peak tallied 38 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists in his team’s first two Beach Ball wins en route to the semifinals and is second on the team to star Jahlil Okafor with 17.2 points per game this season.
Peak said he misses South Carolina and “feels at home” in the Beach Ball Classic. “I really miss it. I miss my family and my friends,” Peak said. “But I think I made the right move basketball-wise and academically.”
Hoops legend returns
Morgan Wootten is a basketball legend, and part of his resume was built at the Beach Ball Classic, where he won three titles with his DeMatha Catholic teams in 1984, ’85 and ’98.
Wootten, 81, is paying the tournament another visit this weekend – to watch his son Joe coach Bishop O’Connell (Va.), enjoy Myrtle Beach with his wife, Kathy, and scout players as chairman of the McDonald’s High School All-America Team selection committee.
“I haven’t been down here in the last few years so I had two reasons to come: to watch [Joe Wootten’s] team play and of course there are a lot of great players in the tournament this year that I’m getting a chance to look at,” Wootten said. “I really don’t think you can beat this tournament. It’s just a super tournament and well run. John Rhodes now and of course Dan D’Antoni did such a great job getting it started.”
Wootten is considered the winningest coach in the history of basketball at any level with more than 1,300 wins and a winning percentage of 87 percent, and he was a 2000 inductee into the Naismith National Basketball Hall of Fame. He retired from coaching in 2002 after 46 years at DeMatha, which won the 2005 Beach Ball title after his retirement.
Wootten is still very active in the game. He has a five-week basketball camp in Maryland for boys and girls, travels to a number of games to see some of the All-America candidates, and has a two-day coaching clinic that has drawn some of the best coaches from all levels. Brothers Mike and Dan D’Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers took part in the clinic this past summer.
Dunks and bombs
Beach Ball Classic organizers are trying something new this year and moving the dunk and 3-point contests to Sunday night, which has been an off night for about the past decade because some states don’t allow teams to play on Sunday.
Teams are allowed to have one participant in each competition, or two in one.
Dunk competitors include 6-5 Bishop Gorman sophomore Nick Blair, Rufus King 6-4 junior Chris Howell, Bishop O’Connell 6-3 junior Jamall Gregory and Whitney Young 6-4 junior L.J. Peak.
Three-point participants include Franklin’s Kennard and Travis Lakins, Bishop Gorman’s Andrew Brown, Myrtle Beach’s Nolin Butler, St. James’ Caleb Duggan and Jackson Hurston, Rufus King’s Austin Malone-Mitchell, Bishop O’Connell’s Jamaal King, Socastee’s Will Caswell, Orem’s Cooper Holt and Dalton Nixon and Whitney Young’s Miles Reynolds.
There are also a pair of games Sunday afternoon that aren’t part of the Beach Ball competition as Cape Fear Academy (N.C.) takes on Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach at 3 p.m., and The Hammond School faces Mullins High at 5 p.m. Hammond features one of the top freshman in the country in Seventh Woods, and Mullins features a top eighth-grader in Jaleek Felton, the nephew of the New York Knicks’ Raymond Felton.