by Malik Vincent
There are several players who left the confines of the City League—namely Schenley High School, and joined some noted college programs.
|D.J. KENNEDY (Photo by St. John’s athletic communications)
After leading the Schenley Spartans to a PIAA state championship in 2007, DeJuan Blair, D.J. Kennedy and DeAndre Kane all made it to the major-college level of competition. One of them has achieved a level to which many aspire from the first time they take their first steps on the hardwood.
Blair, the most noted of the three, played two seasons at Pitt from 2007-09 and was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs as the 37th overall selection. He is now in his second season with the franchise where he broke the starting lineup this season and is averaging 7.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game for the team with the best record in the NBA.
But the two other aforementioned players have and are currently putting together fine careers in college basketball.
In the 2006-07 school year, Kennedy averaged 17.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game for the Spartans during his senior season. He was ranked as high as the 35th-best small forward in the nation, according to multiple recruit evaluation services. A career that was good enough to give him an opportunity to play at St. John’s University where he is his fourth year with the Red Storm.
“It has been great to play at a big school, in big games and in a big city,” Kennedy said. “What we accomplished at Schenley was special. It makes me glad to be able to represent Pittsburgh and all the talent that it has.”
D.J. is averaging just over 10 points and 5 rebounds for St. John’s. His father was a player at Fifth Avenue High School in the ‘70s, where they experienced success as well. The elder Kennedy was a letter winner University of Cincinnati from 1978-81.
Kane, now a redshirt freshman at Marshall, was the New Pittsburgh Courier Boys’ Basketball Player of the Year after his senior season at Schenley in 2008, when he averaged 33 points and 11 rebounds per contest. His 35 points in the City Championship, that year, helped his Spartans to a third-consecutive title.
He then played a year at the Patterson School—a prep program in North Carolina, where he averaged 15.6 points per game. The team went 34-2 that year, garnering a No.1 prep school national ranking in the process. Kane is currently averaging over 15 points and 5 rebounds for Marshall, as their starting shooting guard.
“(Winning the State title) with Schenley was the most fun (I’d ever had),” Kane said. “We had lost the year before. After that, we were determined to come back and win it. And that’s exactly what happened. That thought brings back great memories.”
Fred Skrocki, affectionately referred to as ‘coach sky’, was the mastermind that was behind the team that produced the three-peat city champion and state title winning Spartans of 2005-08. Kane and Kennedy both stood on the notion that their high school coach was more than just a coach.
“He was terrific,” Kane said. “One of the best coaches I’ve ever had in my life. He was more like a father to all of us, than a coach. What a great man.”
“Coach Sky was definitely like a father to us,” Kennedy added. “He always supported us and was behind us in anything we decided to do.”
Skrocki, like a proud father, feels the same way about his former players. He’s now the head girls’ basketball coach at West Shamokin High School in Armstrong County. He said that he had such a great time with his Spartans team, that he would “never coach boys’ basketball again.” He also cited that his current players “iconize” DeJuan Blair.
“They know all about him,” he said. “They have posters and all that stuff. They absolutely love him.”
He went on to describe how proud of his players for, not only their accomplishments on the court, but for continuing their education, stressing it was always a point of emphasis with his players.
“D.J. is getting ready to graduate with a degree and that is so special,” Skrocki added. “DeJuan also mentioned to me that he plans on going back to Pitt over the summers to take classes. I couldn’t be more proud of the fact that they understand that getting an education is so important.”