Is Shawn Kemp Jr. worth the risk?


Is Reign Man Jr. about to come to Montlake? It appears so, as Shawn Kemp Jr. agreed to join the Washington Huskies by signing financial aid papers, according to the Seattle Times. There had been speculation for months about whether the 6’9″ 265 lb power forward was going to be joining the Washington Huskies this year. Clearly UW has a need to improve its front line and Kemp Jr. seemed to be a big body to fill that hole. Despite growing up in Georgia, he was recruited heavily by Lorenzo Romar three years ago. So, this may be a case of better late than never.

Kemp Jr. is a player who will be initially greeted with love because of the fond memories Seattleites have for his father of the dominant 90’s-era Seattle Supersonics. Those alley-oops from Gary Payton to the Reign Man brought down the house

, and as a teenager it really made an impression on me as a fledging basketball fan. But, there will no doubt be a lot of scrutiny and high expectations as well. For as much as Seattle fans loved his father for his dunks and hard play, he also had his fair share of criticism for his alleged lack of intelligence and some of his off-court decisions. Some will wonder how much his son is like his father and how different he will be as well.

As for Kemp Jr. decision to come to Montlake, much of the discussion had been swirling around him walking on at UW for months. I wondered and asked outloud (well, at least typed it in the comments section of the Seattle Times Husky Basketball board) why he would walk-on when UW still had a scholarship (or two at the time before Martin Breunig committed) available.

No one ever seemed to have a good reason why having Kemp Jr. walk-on made any sense. Some said it was because his father was rich and could afford it. But, that didn’t stop Elston Turner from getting a scholarship. Was there another reason?

Personally, I wondered if it was because Romar was intrigued by the size and talent of Kemp Jr., but was worried about essentially committing to four uncertain years with Kemp Jr. when UW will only have two (maybe three) scholarships available next year and 2012 is shaping up to be an outstanding recruiting class of talent. There is a risk there that you are taking on a project with some significant baggage instead of starting off fresh with highly touted recruit later.

Yes, I know that scholarships are technically year-to-year deals. But, I don’t believe that coaches tell players to commit to their program with the promise of only one-year paid and then they will have to transfer or pay their own way later. The players believe they are going for four years and only when limited playing time/home sickness/or scholarship crunches occur later do players decide (perhaps with a bit of nudging from the coaches) to transfer. But, it is considered bad form for coaches to literally and publically pull a scholarship from a player.

So, based on all the rumors out there for the past several months, it seems like Romar was hoping to get Shawn Kemp Jr. to walk-on with the opportunity to earn a scholarship later. However, that potential plan, if that was how it was to work, was quashed in May when Shawn Kemp Sr. went on KJR radio to flat out said his son was going somewhere who gave him a scholarship.

Ultimately, Romar had to make a decision. Was Kemp’s potential worth the risk?

Obviously, there is a lot of baggage there for him to overcome. He had not played organized basketball in over two years. He is overweight and out of shape. There will be a great deal of rustiness to an already raw skill set. He has struggled with academic issues. As has been duly noted previously by me and hundreds of other basketball followers, he initially committed to Alabama in 2008, but was academically ineligible and attended a prep school instead (Hargrave Military Academy). In 2009, he committed to Auburn, but again was ruled academically ineligible.

For the past two years he has been working on his academic issues to get eligible and it would seem that now that he is coming to Montlake, that he must have worked them out successfully. Although, the exact avenue (online courses, correspondence, or night classes?) he used to achieve that remains unclear. UW admissions has traditionally held a slightly higher line than the minimum NCAA clearinghouse standards and has a history of rejecting admittance to athletes if they didn’t think they could be academically successful.

I, for one, tend to be critical of universities who let in anyone simply because they can play a sport and have no intention of graduating. However, I also feel that after two years away from the game, perhaps Kemp Jr. now has the right priorities and maturity to be successful and deserves to be given the chance to succeed both in the classroom and on the court. With Romar as his mentor, that would also bode well for his future.

We at Husky Haul would love to get your opinion about whether it is worth the risk to use the final available scholarship (and perhaps take one away from next year’s class) on an out-of-shape player who has struggled with academic issues, but who was a former 4-star recruit and alternate to the McDonald’s All-America game in 2008. Take the poll at the link below;