Very few players in the Chicago area this year have as many high-major college offers as Sherif Kenney does.
UConn. Arizona State. Boston College. Penn State. Kansas State. Rutgers. DePaul.
Whether he’s held on to all of them is unclear, although he claims he has. And how Kenney — who played for national powerhouse Brewster Academy last year, then was supposedly set to transfer to equally prestigious Findlay Prep over the summer — ended up at Orr in November is equally unclear.
But crystal clear indeed is the fact that the point guard has added a new dimension to a dynamic Spartans team (11-7, 5-0 Red-North/West) that already featured ultra-athletic guard Tujautae Williams. Williams touts offers from Texas Tech, Minnesota, DePaul and others; now, he’s potentially not even the most sought-after recruit on Orr’s roster.
“(Tujautae and I) talk all day, we’re like best friends,” Kenney said Wednesday. “On the court, as you can see, we’re the ones that everyone goes to — I mainly pass Tujautae the ball, because I trust him.”
Kenney’s first five games for Orr, since being cleared on Dec. 21, came in holiday tournaments in Minnesota and Michigan. He scored 25 points in a win over Ferndale (Mich.) on Dec. 28, earning game MVP honors.
Then on Wednesday, in No. 25 Orr’s big 66-60 win over No. 19 Uplift, Kenney’s brusing frame and big talent officially hit the Chicago stage. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Kenney is unusually large for a point guard, yet he showed an ability to capitalize on the better aspects of both labels.
He shot like a point guard: 3-for-4 from deep, 6-for-8 from the free throw line. Yet he posted up like a power forward, drawing defenders then delivering passes to Williams and others for easy baskets. And defensively, he towered over Uplift’s own guards.
That combination of size, strength and ball-handling gave the host Titans fits all night long.
“Kenney is a big body … but he is extremely skilled, his footwork is exceptional, and so that’s a tall order for anyone that’s not up to his body type,” Uplift coach David Taylor said. “Hats off to the Orr coaching staff — they had a pretty good game plan that revolved around him, and they did a good job executing it.”
Kenney initially planned to test his merits this winter against some of the nation’s top college prospects while playing for Findlay Prep, an elite basketball school in the Las Vegas area. He said “nothing really worked out” once he arrived there, though, and didn’t offer more details. Findlay Prep declined to comment when contacted Thursday.
That’s only the latest step in Kenney’s long and confusing road prior to arriving in Chicago. He played for two different schools in the D.C. area from 2015 to 2017, then joined Brewster for the 2017-18 season, then wound up at Orr this season, adding up to four different schools in four years. Even on the AAU circuit, Kenney began the 2018 summer season playing for one team (Team Loaded – Virginia) and ended it with another (DC Premier).
At the latter stop, Kenney reunited with coach John Perry, a former mentor dating back to his preteen years. At first, because of his unfamiliarity with the team and system, Kenney struggled.
“He wanted to fit in, he didn’t want to overshoot, so the timing was off between him and a lot of guys in his early games,” Perry said. “He had a lot of turnovers when he first started. I told him, ‘You need to understand, you overpass. Just take the shot.’”
Those fortunes soon turned around. Kenney ultimately helped DC Premier win the 2018 Under Amour Association Finals and earned MVP honors in the championship game.
“He’s almost two passes ahead, and he can see what’s happening pretty quick,” Perry said. “His size allows him to see over smaller guards, and he always seems to put his teammates in great situations to finish. If it’s a jump shot, he puts the ball where it needs to be so they can get a good shot. If it’s in the paint, he knows how to draw the defender where he can lay it off nice and easy.”
It’s been a similar case at Orr, which is loaded with transfers and began the campaign 2-3, but has since rallied to 11-6 with an unblemished record in conference play. Between Kenney’s physicality and Williams’ athleticism, the Spartans have a one-two punch in the backcourt that will be difficult to contain. Uplift found that out the hard way Wednesday: Williams tallied 21 points and Kenney 19, and most were assisted by the other.
And as the journeyman recruit — who said he isn’t going to go on college visits until after the high school season ends — continues to grow more accustomed to coach Lou Adams’ system, that task will get even tougher.
“I’m very comfortable now,” Kenney said. “These guys are great players. I love passing them the ball, they’re great teammates, and when they give me the ball, I love giving it back to them.”