Originally Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2012, 7:38 pm
Last Updated: Jan. 17, 2012, 7:42 pm

SAU's Kennedy set to reach his milestone moment

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By Tom Johnston, tjohnston@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
St. Ambrose University basketball standout Mike Kennedy (24) has risen to great heights for the Fighting Bees. The senior should become the program's fourth 2,000- point scorer tonight. He is also No. 3 on the all-time rebounding list.

At some point, probably early on, in tonight's Midwest Collegiate Conference clash at Viterbo University, St. Ambrose men's basketball standout Mike Kennedy will etch a coveted spot in the SAU record books.

With six points, the SAU senior 6-foot-6 forward will become the program's fourth player to crack the 2,000-point plateau.

"He fits our system very, very well from the standpoint that he's very versatile,'' SAU coach Ray Shovlain said of Kennedy. "He can shoot the ball, he scores inside, he's strong. He's gotten significantly better every year.

"The way we run things, we allow guys to shoot it, we post our guards, let our big guys shoot outside. I'd say it's worked out pretty well for him.''

Indeed, it has for the former Chicago Brother Rice prep.

"I haven't been thinking about it; I thought about 1,000 a lot more,'' admitted Kennedy of his looming accomplishment. "I'll be happy when I get there.''

He immediately made his mark on the SAU campus as a freshman, starting his first game and 29 others that season. The only game he didn't start in 113 games was when an altered lineup took the court for Senior Day his freshman season.

Right from the start, Kennedy, who passed up the opportunity to be a walk-on at Eastern Illinois University, showed he belonged. In his first game that freshman season, he set the tone for his career with 29 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes of a 92-76 road victory over Cardinal Stritch.

" I didn't know what to expect coming out of high school,'' said Kennedy. "When I started as a freshman, I figured I could be a player here.''

"We thought he could be pretty good,'' said Shovlain, who watched Kennedy pop for 472 points his freshman season, an average of 15.2 per game.

The 2010-11 NAIA Div. II first-team All-American hasn't stopped pouring them in since. He has added 510 points (16.5 ppg) as a sophomore, 641 (20.0) last season and is at 371 (19.5) this season.

"I know from working against him that he's hard to stop; he can pretty much get a shot whenever he wants to,'' said fellow senior Chris Donnelly, who has 1,163 career points and is No. 28 on the program's scoring charts. "He's really stepped up his defense this year, too, and become a leader as well.''

Kennedy has also grown, literally, into more of a force each season. That is reflected in his impressive rebounding numbers. He is No. 3 on the school's all-time rebounding charts with 827, tied with Jim Hornacek (1987-91). Stowasser is second with 1,023 and Jim Fay (1,408, 1951-55) holds the benchmark.

Kennedy has learned to use that body well and transform his game along with it.

"My freshman year, I was more of a shooter, but I've started scoring closer to the basket, making it easier on myself,'' admitted Kennedy. "When I got here, I was a 3-man. I'm now getting more high-percentage shots. It seems a lot easier to score when you're five feet from the basket rather than 20 feet away.''

While his 3-ball numbers have dropped over the years, his free-throw numbers have skyrocketed.

"I get the foul calls,'' he said. "For as much as I complain about getting fouled, I get some calls.''

Making Kennedy's accomplishments even more impressive is that he has kept his humble demeanor.

"He's got a great sense of humor and never lets anything go to his head,'' said Donnelly. "You know he's always going to give his best.''

Shovlain appreciates the effort and leadership qualities Kennedy brings to the program, noting his captain is leading the team in sprints in practice even now as his career winds down. That is how he can be just as strong at the end of games even though he is averaging a team-high 33.1 minutes per contest.

"Mike is the biggest kid I've seen who is in that good of shape,'' noted Shovlain.

Shovlain appreciates much more. He admires his consistency and demeanor.

"He's got a lot of humility,'' added Shovlain, "and that goes a long way to making it a better team.''

That's why Kennedy is set to take his next accomplishment in stride.

"It'll be a good feeling,'' said Kennedy of the 2K accomplishment, "but the main focus is to keep winning the conference games.''

Kennedy feated

St. Ambrose university men's basketball standout Mike Kennedy will be honored before Saturday's game vs. Iowa Wesleyan. Not only will the senior be recognized for reaching the 2,000-point mark in his career, but also be awarded his 2010-11 NAIA All-American plaque. Game time is 3 p.m.

SAU's 2,000-point scorers
1. Jeff Stowasser   2,486 points    1991-95
2.  Josh Miller    2,286   1996-2000
3. Bob Cannady    2,003    1990-94