Lifetime Lancer Thomas Kennedy of Windsor named U Sports men's basketball MVP
Kennedy also became the University of Windsor's all-time leading scorer
Thomas Kennedy wants to be in Halifax this weekend with the rest of his University of Windsor Lancers teammates, as Canadian university teams play in the national championships
Unfortunately, the Lancers' run for the national title ended in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) semifinal, with a 79-74 loss to the eventual champions, the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.
Despite the disappointment, Kennedy, a fifth-year business student, did go to the Nova Scotia capital, where he collected the Mike Moser Trophy for most valuable player in U Sports men's basketball.
"It takes a bit of the sting away," the 6-foot-9 forward said as he was taking in the U SPORTS Final 8 Championships in the Nova Scotia capital. "But to be individually recognized doesn't happen without everyone that is supporting you. My teammates, my coaches, and most importantly, my family."
Looking at the trophy, Kennedy immediately saw the magnitude of the honour.
"To win this award with all of the talent on the trophy — there are so many names on there," he said. "And this year there were some great individual performances. And for me to be considered is a great honour."
The lifetime Lancer, who went to St. Joseph's Catholic High School, said after receiving the MVP award that he was thinking of many people. Two in particular were his father James, who he passed on the all-time scoring list to get to the top, and Lancers head coach Chris Cheng.
"If people know me, they know my dad," Kennedy said. "He doesn't miss a game. I play basketball because of him, and I play for him in a sense. I know he's enjoying the moment as much as I am, knowing the number of hours I've put into it and the number of hours he's put in.
"Coach Cheng has been with me for four years at the University of Windsor," he said. "He's supported me even when I wanted to leave the team in the summers. And when I am wearing the Windsor jersey, he lets me play the way I play and lead the way I lead. He believes in me not only as a player, but as a person. That support is unmatched."
Cheng couldn't contain his excitement for his player.
'A testament to his hard work and dedication'
"I am very proud of Thomas for achieving this award," Cheng said. "This is a testament to his hard work and dedication to his craft. It has been such an honour and privilege to coach such a phenomenal individual and talented player."
The two-time OUA all-star led the Lancers to a first-place finish in the OUA West division with a 16-6 record and the No. 6 ranking in the country. His play at both ends of the court made him a difference-maker in every game, leading the country in offensive and defensive rebounds.
His 20.8 points per game average was ninth in Canada, as was his field goal percentage of 0.590. He was fifth in the nation in blocks, with 1.7 per game.
Despite all the national statistics, the one that meant the most to him was becoming the University of Windsor's all-time leading scorer with 1,479 points. He also broke the school record for career blocks with 117.
"It was one of my goals. To have that check mark means a lot," Kennedy said. "When I came to the school I set some goals. And when I came into the season I set some goals, and that was one of them."
Looking at turning pro
As for the Lancers' season, Kennedy knew it was their time to make a run for a championship, especially with the addition of veteran transfers Daniel Cummings and local Najee Brown-Henderson, as well as Xavier Ochu returning to full health.
"We had three new starters propel us to the top," Kennedy said. "Coach Cheng's words to us were, 'This team has a chance.' We didn't really believe it until the second half when we really started to roll. It was a great run and something I'll always remember."
Now that Kennedy's career as a Lancer is over, he's eyeing a professional basketball career in Europe, while also honing his game in the Canadian Elite Basketball League. Last year, he played with the Fraser Valley Bandits.
"Playing in the CEBL has really prepared me for university ball and to be a pro," Kennedy said. "I'm hoping I can use all of that knowledge and play pro as long as I can."