Journeyman guard Sherif Kenney brings star power, big offer list to Orr

Orr's Shareef Kenney (5) stops Uplift's Taijay Brown (4) from scoring during their 66-60 win in Chicago on Wednesday January 9, 2019. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times
Orr's Sherif Kenney (5) stops Uplift's Taijay Brown (4) from scoring during their 66-60 win in Chicago on Wednesday January 9, 2019. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

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.

Orr's Sherif Kenney (5) gets around Uplift's Detalian Brown (1) during their 66-60 win in Chicago on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Orr’s Sherif Kenney (5) gets around Uplift’s Detalian Brown (1) during their 66-60 win in Chicago on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times.

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).

Orr's Sherif Kenney (5) controls the ball against Uplift's Tavion Underwood (11) during their 66-60 victory in Chicago on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Orr’s Sherif Kenney (5) controls the ball against Uplift’s Tavion Underwood (11) during their 66-60 victory in Chicago on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times.

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.”

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13 comments

  • Cooley

    Hey, old school half a hundred guy: Let me drop some knowledge on you.Transfers are legal according to the rules unless there’s recruiting, tampering, residency or custodial issues. REsidency and custody are big. This is why IHSA is taking over transfers coming from outside then into CPS. There are reasons (I wont mention) to question the leadership at the CPS Sports office for sure. I am certain when IHSA figures out “how” they will monitor transfer into CPS they must understand all of the tricks. They will find custody issues, residency issues, recruiting and tampering often tied to AAU. To confirm these things are happening they will need an investigatory arm, which they don’t presently have. They will need a person familiar with Chicago coaches, AAU and all of the tricks coaches use to get kids into their schools legally and illegally. Good luck IHSA, but it’s more than a notion to get a hold of the illegalities and actually control or stop it.

    • 50 year alum

      Cooley I never once blamed a kid for transferring it’s all about what the IHSA and CPS allow you can’t honestly believe that all these transfers are legal. I dare you to find one example of any team in any sport across the whole country that allows 8 transfers in one year you know it’s the corrupt system that allows this. Kids should be able to purse their dreams but at what cost. Maybe the system will change but I really doubt it. Most fans know there is recruiting going on everyday I believe you about the AAU is also responsible for most of this. It just seems to me that it’s most blatant in the public league I never blamed a kid or coach it’s so obvious that it’s a joke! Now I’m done with all of my bitching about this seems like most fans who email this site agree with me and like our rights in this country some disagree let’s start doing things the correct way and let the playing field be level

  • Unbothered

    You guys are out of your minds. Transferring is not illegal. If a kid is transferring for basketball reasons. So what? If a kid has the grades to play, who cares. What is so criminal about a kid wanting more playing time or possibly getting more exposure? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Let them bare the consequences of their choices. It’s called ‘LIFE’. I’m amazed that so many adults are bothered by this.

  • Will I am

    I mean what is the standard for transferring to CPS schools. I know for a fact Hyde Park has several transfers that haven’t played thus far this season. But every orher transfer at every other school is playing. I guess this is only allowed for the powerhouse schools to gain a competitive advantage.

  • Downstate Nate

    I miss the days when more teams developed continuity and cohesion over time. In my opinion, this much transferring hurts the quality of play. The IHSA should make you sit out for a year if you transfer to focus on academics. I hope things work out for this kid.

  • LaVar Ball

    It’s unfortunately, but this player is destined to become a journeyman burger flipper at McD’s. Not the player’s fault, but there’s too many people talking to him. None of the coaches care…it’s all about their W/L record and securing the best players, even if they sit next to the waterboy and never play.

  • 50 year alum

    Here we go again more articles about Orr transfers I see I’m not the only one who is sick of reading about this. How possibly can a kid go to four schools in four years? If this is legal then the system is so rigged why he ended up at Orr is so obvious the CPS allows it. There has to be questions asked how this could be. When blatant cheating persists how can other schools compete?Why does it seem it’s the public league is the main culprit of constant cheating. The fact that other public league teams do not complain is because they all do it. Then to say this is a Class 2A school is a big joke this is why these schools beat up on real 2A schools. Until some one starts to investigate this it will continue to happen. The current system is so fixed that’s why the public league wins all of these state titles. Orr is not the only team in the CPS to do this. It’s really funny but it eems like every article the sun times write about the public league has the word TRANSFERS in it. Maybe they should hold their own state tournament. I dare anyone to rebut my assertion. the IHSA won’t or can’t do anything about this. When was the last time you read or heard of any high school team in th country allowing 8 transfers in one year NEVER! So let them cheat while other schools do things the right way. As I have said before CPS stands for Corrupt Public School system.

    • Appolonia

      Yes. What 50 year alum said.

      • 50 year alum

        Sure glad to see some fans agree should be more but where are they? Guess I hit a nerve with my comments sports are supposed to be a privilege you earn by keeping grades at a level that ALLOW you to compete. Wonder if this goes on all over the state I hardly doubt it. But if the CPS is never challenged by the IHSA it will continue. I can not understand why some schools are allowed to do this. How many teams are allowed 8 transfers in one year without being fully investigated ZERO! I’ve been watching high school sports for over 50 years but never commented on this subject til just recently like to hear from others their opinion bet most peole would agree with me. So if sports are to be competed on the same level for all things have to change. You will never convince me that things are equal so let the CPS be put under the same rules the rest of the state are under.

        • Leegs1

          I believe you are new to this site this year. Every year the transfer questions have been discussed. Word of advice: save your energy. Only the IHSA has the power to change the rules on transfers. Each year this subject has been beaten into the ground. It is what it is! Root for the teams that don’t game the system. I do.

  • jgm

    Four schools, er basketball programs, in as many years?!?! What schools are offering and do they really think he will stay?!!!! Not judging the student/athlete, maybe his advisers. Good luck to you Sherif.

  • Pirates24

    There are so many transfers, they have to wear name tags at practice.

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