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Duke men's basketball 2016-17 player review: Luke Kennard

<p>Luke Kennard earned second-team All-American honors after a breakthrough season as the second-leading scorer in the ACC.</p>

Luke Kennard earned second-team All-American honors after a breakthrough season as the second-leading scorer in the ACC.

Luke Kennard

Season breakdown: Kennard was the Blue Devils' most consistent player all year long in a very up-and-down season, and his breakout campaign earned him a spot as a second-team AP All-American. Preseason injuries to freshmen Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden opened up room for Kennard in the starting lineup to begin the year, and he took advantage of the opportunity, quickly establishing himself as Duke's top offensive weapon and one of the most prolific scorers in the country.

The Franklin, Ohio, native was touted as an outstanding shooter coming out of high school as a four-star recruit, and he lived up to the hype with a sweet shooting stroke and quick release that helped him get shots up coming off screens. The lefty ranked second in the ACC with a 43.8 percent mark from beyond the arc and shot an efficient 48.9 percent from the field.

In addition to his shooting prowess, Kennard's development of a full arsenal of offensive moves allowed him to create great spacing on the floor for both him and his teammates. He became adept at finishing in the lane with both his right and left hands—though he shoots lefty, Kennard was a star right-handed quarterback in high school—and an array of polished head fakes gave him space to get his shot off against taller defenders inside.

Kennard's signature game came in late January, with Duke's season teetering on the brink as it headed to Wake Forest with three losses in four games. After scoring just four points in the first half, the sophomore did not miss a shot after the break, going 10-of-10 from the field and singlehandedly keeping the Blue Devils in the game before hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer with 6.6 seconds left to play that allowed Duke to escape with a win.

Kennard also came on strong in the second half of games in the Blue Devils' run to the ACC tournament title in New York, where he was named the tournament MVP. He averaged 20.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game as Duke became the first team ever to win the crown by defeating four teams in four days. But Kennard's postseason success to did not carry over into the NCAA tournament, when he shot just 1-of-6 from the field and fouled out of the Blue Devils' second-round loss to South Carolina.

Results relative to expectations: Following a very inconsistent freshman year that had many wondering what his role would be on this year's team, Kennard blew all expectations out of the water by emerging as Duke's best offensive player. Even his accolades in high school—he finished as the second-leading scorer in state history, three spots ahead of LeBron James—did not foreshadow the sophomore season that Kennard put together.

With Tatum and fellow rookie Harry Giles declaring their intentions to leave for the NBA draft in the past week, many are speculating whether Kennard will follow suit soon. He did not receive much attention as a draft prospect prior to the season, but his stellar offensive numbers have catapulted him into the first round of many mock drafts.


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