For the first time since his initial season as Bordentown High basketball coach in 2014, John Myers does not have a stud offensive player who can drop 20 to 30 points on any given night. Gone are the likes of Myron Gordon, Date Gibson, Manny Ansong, Darnill Brown, Jacquey Mendez, Jordan Martin and Gavin Shiver.
What remains are guys who Myers is imploring to score just seven points per game.
“This is a unique opportunity when you can see every boxscore having nine scorers,” Myers said. “I always say to them ‘If nine of you score seven points each, that’s 63. The difference between this team and other teams I’ve had is other teams would score 80, but they would give up 68. If this team scores 63, I don’t know how the other team gets past 50.”
It’s an ambitious plan considering nine guys is a lot to have scoring every night, but Myers has confidence it can be done thanks to one guy—Aiden Kennedy. The Scotties will have an offense that absolutely needs a good point guard to get everyone involved.
“Exactly,” Myers said. “That’s why he is so valuable.”
The coach feels Kennedy is one of the best, and compares him to one of the best.
“He is a Maurice Cheeks kind of guy,” said Myers in reference to the Hall of Fame point guard who led the 76ers to the 1983 NBA championship. “If you need 18 he can give you 18. Or he may score eight to 10, but he’s gonna make sure that A: everybody else gets involved; and B: he’s gonna defend his butt off. You don’t see this type of player as much as you used to.”
When told of the compliment, Kennedy admitted he doesn’t know who Cheeks is, but promised he would do some research on him. At 5-foot-9 with point guard skills, it’s easy to see Myers comparison to the 6-1 Cheeks.
“Aiden’s one of those guys,” he said, “where after the game you look at it and say ‘What did he do?’ and your answer is ‘Everything he needed to do.’”
It is a role that Kennedy relishes. After moving from Trenton to Bordentown at age 7, he played in Bordentown rec before playing travel with the Bordentown Ballers and AAU with the Jersey Force and South Jersey Titans. He was a mostly a combo guard coming up, but was used strictly at point when he made the Bordentown varsity as a sophomore and started a few games.
He took over the starting job last year and has found his calling.
“Getting into high school I started to understand the game better and it started to develop; and the point guard role has definitely grown on me,” Kennedy said. “I love trying to get my team involved. I love facilitating the ball. That’s always the main aspect I focus on, just getting my teammates involved and getting the ball out.
“I’ve always loved watching the game, studying the game and then just breaking it down, and pulling everything back up so I can understand it.”
Last year, Aiden had several strong players to set up but, the pressure was not as great because guys like Martin and Shiver could create their own shot. This season it becomes more important to find teammates in the right spot as more will need to score.
Both Myers and Kennedy insist, however, that does not mean the Scotties lack talent.
“People keep saying that to me,” Myers said. “But Logan Saranin and Armaan Gill are back, they’ve been playing since they were sophomores. Hunter Parrish played a lot last year and had two huge games. I’ve been really fortunate over my seven years to have guys who could flat out score 20. And that is wonderful. But it loses sight that it does sometimes take a whole team. This year’s team is as good of a ‘team’ that I’ve had.”
Kennedy agrees and feels the Scotties will have fun proving doubters wrong this season.
“There are definitely people saying ‘You lost all the big scorers,’ but we don’t think of it like that,” he said. “We know the type of team we are, the players that we are, and we’re gonna go out and play hard. All the outside noise we just distract from that, block it out. We’re working hard in practices getting each other prepped up and ready for the games.
“I’ve pretty much played with the starting five for a long time. Logan, Hunter and Amaar, we’ve played AAU with each other from a young age and in middle school. We have a strong core, we know each other very well and we have a good dynamic.”
Kennedy knows he is the man who has to make things go and he has been working hard at it.
Although teams could not gather for official practices over the summer, he worked out on the playgrounds; to the point where he developed patellar tendinitis due to a pounding the hard concrete took on his knees. After undergoing physical therapy, he feels healthy and ready to.
Kennedy also worked hard on his cardio, knowing that the Scotties may spend a lot of time running in transition due to a pressure defense.
But physical preparedness is only part of a point guard’s homework. The mental aspect is equally important.
“I watch all the college games I can, so I can pay attention to the sets that they’re running, and the plays and how they have to read things,” Kennedy said. “I feel I can bring that into the high school aspect a little more. I have to make certain cuts, make certain reads. I have to make decisions not only for me but for my teammates just so I can get them easier shots; get me easier shots. And then the offense will flow.”
His biggest role model is just a year older than him in Auburn freshman Sharife Cooper. The 6-1 talent leads the Tigers in scoring and assist-to-turnover ratio.
“I just like the way he sees the floor,” said Kennedy, who has been contacted to play college ball by Rutgers-Newark and has also been in contact with Rutgers in New Brunswick. “He’s a dynamic, flashy guard, he’s a small guard as well. I look at his games, see how he pieces stuff together. He’s pretty much the core of their team. He gets everybody involved, that’s what I want to be as well.”
One thing Kennedy won’t do is match Cooper’s 21-point scoring average. Not because he can’t, but because he has too many other responsibilities
“I need him to be an efficient scorer,” Myers said. “He can’t waste energy trying to score because he’s got too many other things to do. I don’t think too many people appreciate that the mental aspect of the game for a point guard takes up a tremendous amount of energy. You have your teammate doing what we need to do as a team and communicating that to everyone else on the floor.”
Kennedy has absolutely no problem with not scoring big points. He is an old-school point guard who will take what presents itself. Aiden realizes that the Scotties are a team that should be cohesive considering all the time the starting lineup has played together. Myers feels having him run the show is part of a perfect storm.
“It’s just funny how time came together this way,” the coach said. “Not because we planned it, but it just came together. When I started breaking down this team I realized this is the guy, and it’s the perfect time for him. It’s a very good team that can win, and it’s a totally messed up situation with Covid and everything, so you have to have a guy who can mentally handle all of that. Without question he can do that.
“He’s not one of my rah-rah guys. But nobody on my team whose played in the last three years would look at him and say ‘That guy doesn’t try.’ They see it, and they feed off of it.”
Makes sense. Sixers coach Billy Cunningham used to say the same thing about Cheeks.