January 10, 2009

Kennedy Returns Home; Faces #1 Pitt

Growing up in the Hill District neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA; D.J. Kennedy dreamed of playing basketball for the University of Pittsburgh. "Growing up I was a Pitt fan," said Kennedy. I wanted to play for them but things didn't work out."

Things have worked out well for the St. John's Red Storm who heavily recruited Kennedy prior to the 2007-2008 college basketball season. The 6-foot-6 sophomore swingman has been extremely productive in his second season for the Johnnies as he currently leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

Coming off a 20-point and ten rebound performance in St. John's upset of Notre Dame; Kennedy and his teammates will have another chance to shake up the standings in the Big East Conference when they take on the Pittsburgh Panthers; the number one team in the nation Sunday afternoon.

For Kennedy the return to Pittsburgh is a homecoming of sorts and he is excited about the opportunity to knock the Panthers from the top spot. Kennedy played his high school basketball at Schenley High School which is walking distance from the Pittsburgh Campus. The sophomore guard forward will play against his former high school teammate Dajuan Blair who now plays for the Panthers. With the two former Schenley stars playing in the Pittsburgh; Kennedy expects a lot of family and friends to pack the Petersen Events Center. "We are playing the number one team in the country so I am really looking forward to it," Kennedy told Redstormreport.com. "I think any kid that goes back to their hometown wants to have a good game. I definitely want to have a good game but I want to win the game it doesn't matter what happens (individually)."

For the Red Storm it will take a team effort to defeat the number one team in the country. The Panthers are a very solid defense team that loves to play a physical style of basketball. And with dominant big men Dajuan Blair and Sam Young; the Johnnies will have their hands full attempting to keep them off the glass. Head coach Norm Roberts plans to go with Justin Burrell guarding Blair and Kennedy guarding Young. Although Pittsburgh proves to be a tough match up for the Johnnies both players and coaches have liked the intensity in practice. "Everyone's attention to detail is right where it should be for a game like this," said sophomore forward Justin Burrell. Burrell said that the team practices since the win over Notre have been some of the most intense practices he has ever participated in.

Coach Roberts would like his team to bring that same intensity to a raucous sold-out Petersen Events center on Sunday and get a win that would be very important for the program. "They (the team) is excited about every Big East game, "said Roberts. "Nothing that Pitt does is complicated. We have been practicing hard all year long and it comes down to paying attention to detail when you are playing Pittsburgh."

Kennedy will pay attention to every detail of Sunday's game which is very important to him and his teammates are aware of the importance of the game. "He has been talking about this game all year long," said forward Sean Evans. The Johnnies are aware of the fact that if they do not build off the Notre Dame win then some may view their play last week as a fluke. They want to continue their good play at Pittsburgh on Sunday. However, they will not be satisfied with just coming up short. "I will not be satisfied with playing a close game, "said Kennedy. "I want to win."

The Johnnies will try to get one for the hometown kid.


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