Hello, lovely readers! It’s nearly Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. This means we’re in for a special edition of “Brownie Points.” If you’re new, you might be wondering what Brownie Points are. Well, it’s a column where I bestow Brownie Points or snatch them away depending on how a team or player is performing.
That leads us into this week’s edition, where we look at Loyola men’s basketball first-year guard Marquise Kennedy — who has become the apple of Rambler fans’ eyes.
To the elation of a packed Gentile Arena crowd, Kennedy made the game-sealing steal against Valparaiso University Sunday, Feb. 9. The Ramblers eeked out a 70-68 over the Crusaders, and Kennedy put his stamp on the game. He finished with 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, wooing the crowd with his athletic finishes at the rim.
I’ve written about the impact junior guard Keith Clemons — who Kennedy has referred to as the “point God” — has made since his season debut against Ball State University Dec. 3. Clemons took the reigns of the starting point guard spot, but Kennedy has made his presence felt coming off the bench.
Fans’ infatuation with the electric young guard isn’t new, and it hasn’t wavered as he transitioned to the second unit.
Coming off the pine, Kennedy’s production has stayed consistent. His scoring has dipped slightly from 10 points per game as a starter to 8.8 off the bench, but his assists, steals and rebounds have all risen.
Fans aren’t smitten over Kennedy based on just his statistical impact, but also how he seems to make plays nobody else is capable of making. At least, that’s what draws me in when I watch a Loyola men’s basketball game, and if you’ve talked about Ramblers basketball with me, it’s probably been apparent that I’m a not-so-secret admirer of Kennedy’s play.
Kennedy’s draw has rarely been more apparent than the game against Valparaiso. I doubt anybody else on the team would’ve had the guts to take such a massive gamble with the game hanging in the balance.
“We’ll talk later about that,” Loyola head coach Porter Moser jokingly said about Kennedy’s last-second play against the Crusaders.
Moser has raved about Kennedy’s athleticism and his “natural ability to make plays,” and it doesn’t take long to realize just how special Kennedy is.
Granted, gambles don’t always pay off. Kennedy has been far from perfect this year. He’s had certain struggles that naturally come with adjusting to college basketball, but overall his pros have outweighed his cons.
While Moser joked about reprimanding Kennedy for the dangerous move, he seems to understand that maximizing Kennedy’s potential comes in the form of accepting his jaw-dropping but equally risky plays.
Whether it’s poking the ball loose from unsuspecting ball handlers or jumping the passing lanes, Kennedy’s high-risk, high-reward defensive intensity has endeared him in the hearts of Rambler fans. But his swing-for-the-fences style of play isn’t just showcased on the defensive end.
Kennedy is third on the team in scoring, averaging 9.1 points per game. His biggest offensive outburst came against the University of Evansville when he broke out for 20 points.
The way he goes about scoring is equal parts crazy and impressive. He’ll use his speed to blow by his defender, then he seems to embrace the contact of any opposing player who dares to challenge him at the rim. Whether it’s throwing down a dunk or kissing a layup off the glass, Kennedy has an impressive repertoire of scoring in the paint.
So, based on his recent heroics against Valparaiso and propensity for highlight reel plays every time he steps on a basketball court, I’m awarding Kennedy five Brownie Points.
Rambler fans, make sure to cherish Marquise Kennedy and his unrelenting passion for the game of basketball. He might be No. 12 on the court, but he’s No. 1 in our hearts.