July 25, 2013 at 10:34 am

Sam Webb

Michigan ranks high with Ohio shooting star Luke Kennard

FOX Sports Next recruiting analyst Brian Snow on Luke Kennard: 'He needs to continue to get stronger and continue to develop his right hand.' (Photo courtesy of Allen Trieu / FOX Sports Next)

“Luke Kennard is on fire.”

That has been a common utterance in the wake of numerous impressive shooting performances by the Franklin, Ohio, junior over last few years. Lately that characterization has been just as applicable to his life on the recruiting trail. On July 14, Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State each added their names to an impressive scholarship ledger that already included such notables as Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State.

“Luke is one of the best wings in the class,” said FOX Sports Next recruiting analyst Brian Snow. “He has point guard skills, but he is definitely not a point guard since his first instinct is to do what he does best, and that is to score. Also, he is a solid athlete who defends better than people give him credit for. Beyond that he has a great basketball I.Q. and he just knows how to play.”

Ranked a four-star prospect and the No. 18 player in the country by FOX Sports Next, Kennard is regarded as one of the top shooters in the 2015 class. Even so, the 6-5, 180-pounder isn’t resting on his laurels. He is instead focused on addressing the aspects of his game that need improvement.

“He needs to continue to get stronger and continue to develop his right hand,” Snow reported. “Luke is still a little bit left-hand dominant, but that isn't a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. Also, he has a low release on his shot, and that can be of slight concern.”

None of those appear to be issues that can’t get better with time in the gym. As a matter of fact, they already have. Kennard has been working diligently to diversify his game, and the results have been evident in his play this summer.

“I work out with (a trainer) and we work on floaters coming off screens and on the mid-range floater 30-45 minutes a day,” said Kennard. “I have been working on that a lot. I have gotten a lot quicker (and have gotten better at) just getting around people, staying lower, and getting more explosive. I have always been working on my shot. I feel like that has improved a lot too.”

Further refinement of his already deft touch can only serve to increase his appeal in the eyes college coaches. Michigan was among first programs to take note of his marksmanship during its team camp two years ago, and the Wolverines have been giving chase ever since.

“Michigan has done as good a (recruiting) job as anybody,” said Snow. “In fact, you could easily argue that Michigan has done the best job of recruiting him. They have been on him since before he was even a high school freshman and continue to do an excellent job.”

A lot to like

The Wolverines’ ability to connect with not only Kennard, but also his entire family, has been aided significantly by multiple campus visits over the past few years. Those frequent interactions have helped the Maize and Blue mitigate the likely advantages that stemmed from their greater familiarity with schools like Ohio State and Kentucky.

“When we have to drop Luke off or whatever, we want to have a level of comfort,” Kennard’s father Mark told FOX Sports Next. “Coach Beilein and his staff -- they’re just first class and they make you feel like family. There are other colleges we feel the same way about but, (the Michigan coaches) make you feel like you’re just a part of their family.”

That’s a sentiment the younger Kennard certainly shares, but it is just one of many elements that has made Michigan more endearing.

“I love the coaching staff -- Coach Beilein, Coach Meyer, Bacari, LaVall -- I love all of them,” Kennard said. “I feel comfortable when I am there. I can be myself around them. I like how the players just interact with the coaches and how they just have fun when they are there. Their style of play is (appealing). They spread it out. They let you make your own plays. I would say those are the things that I really like about them.”

Michigan’s attractiveness was further enhanced by last year’s NCAA Tournament success. To Kennard is was tangible proof that the Wolverines can compete at a championship level.

“They played like they can, up to their potential,” he said. “If they play like that they are one of the best teams in the country. People have been telling me that I kind of play like Stauskas. When I took a visit up there Coach Beilein was showing us where I would be. I like to come off screens for shots.”

“I could see myself doing that."

Wildcat advantage?

That said, while it’s clear Michigan is in very strong standing, it is by no means the only program with that distinction. If there is a favorite among Kennard’s current list of suitors, he isn’t tipping his hand.

“We sat down (earlier this month) and we kind of did like the top 10, top 15,” he said. “We always had a plan where I was going to possibly commit end of the junior year. But you know, plans can always change.”

Many pundits believe that one of the catalysts for such a change might his recent offer from Kentucky. Especially since the talented youngster is a lifelong fan.

“I would say UK is definitely a game-changer,” Snow stated. “I have always felt that if UK offered they would be very tough to beat and I have heard nothing to suggest otherwise. Now it isn't a done deal, but if UK continues to make him a priority I think they will be extremely tough to beat.”

Of course that won’t stop teams like Michigan from trying.

Sam Webb is managing editor of GoBlueWolverine.com and co-host of the "Michigan Insider" morning show weekdays on Sports Talk 1050 WTKA. His Michigan recruiting column appears every week at detroitnews.com. For more on U-M recruiting, visit michigan.scout.com.

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