Charleston Southern senior guard Matt Kennedy is a true lesson in perseverance.
Coming out of West Ashley High School as an All-Lowcountry selection, Kennedy expected to make an immediate impact at Charleston Southern.
It didn’t happen quite that way. But after languishing on the bench for most of his first three seasons, Kennedy is getting his chance to contribute, and in a big way.
Midway through the season, the 6-3 guard is having easily his best season. He is one of five players averaging in double figures, scoring 11.5 points per game. He is shooting 49.6 percent from the field and is 86 percent from the free throw line. Kennedy has scored in double figures in 11 of CSU’s 15 games, including a career-high 23 points in a 96-90 win over Central Arkansas.
This from a player that did not score a single point as a sophomore and managed only 113 points through his first three seasons. Kennedy already has scored 172 points this season.
“Matt came here with ability and we knew he could play but Matt really struggled in terms of consistency in his attitude and his work ethic,” said CSU coach Barclay Radebaugh. “He’s such a smart player. He has real basketball savvy. He just never put it all together.
“Matt is the poster child for perseverance. He could have quit. He could have left. He could have just rode it out. But he didn’t do that. He got tired of the way things were.”
The change in attitude came last December in the middle of CSU’s run to the Big South Conference regular season title. Kennedy returned from a few days off a changed person and a different player.
“I just decided that I was going to bring it every single day,” said Kennedy. “I got tired of not contributing and I set out to prove to my coaches that they could depend on me every day. I wanted to prove that I could play here and that I deserved to be here.
“It’s pretty simple. We have good players here. If you don’t perform, you won’t get on the court. I decided I was going to do whatever I had to do to get on the court.”
Radebaugh says Kennedy’s parents, Lynn and Jaima, as well as Kennedy’s AAU sponsor, Richard Davis, deserve most of the credit for not allowing Matt the opportunity to transfer, which is what most disgruntled players do.
“They were always supportive and they allowed the process to shape and mold Matt into a man instead of short-circuiting the process,” said Radebaugh. “So many times today in college basketball, you have parents or high school coaches, or AAU coaches interfering with the process. The answer is always transfer, just give up.
“In this situation, the parents were first class. He hit the bottom and nobody bailed him out. He bailed himself out. It allowed him to self-evaluate instead of blame and it turned his entire perspective around. It’s a life lesson that he can rely on for the rest of his life.
“I wish I could tell the Matt Kennedy story all over the country. It would eliminate the 500 transfers that we had in college basketball last spring. I could not be happier as a head coach to see Matt Kennedy be successful.”
Kennedy vows to make his last 15 or so college basketball games something to remember.
“I am so excited about the potential of this team and I am ready to give it all I have for as long as we play,” he said. “The last four years, they have been a tough ride. I’m so thankful for the support that I have had and I go out every night and play as hard as I can for my teammates, my coaches and for all of those that supported me through this.”