SMU will visit Temple on Feb. 16 with a national ranking and plenty of Philly flavor. The Mustangs are ranked No. 23 in the country. The team’s last appearance in the AP Poll was on March 12, 1985. A big reasons for SMU’s success has been the play of Markus Kennedy who grew up in West Philly and played at Villanova during the 2011-12 season before transferring to SMU.
The Mustangs have been quite a story in Dallas, Texas, where the school is located. SMU has posted wins over Cincinnati, Memphis and Connecticut. Kennedy is looking forward to coming home and playing against the Owls at the Liacouras Center at 2 p.m.
“It’s exciting,” Kennedy said. “I’m pretty pumped for it. It’s my first time coming back since I left Villanova. It’s going to be a good feeling. We have a goal to continue to play well. I’m going to have a lot of family and friends there.”
Kennedy, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound sophomore, is averaging 11.9 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. The Mustangs forward played a lot of basketball in the city. He gives plenty of credit to Marcus and Markieff Morris, twin brothers who played for Prep Charter and are now members of the Phoenix Suns. He also played AAU basketball for the Hunting Park Warriors.
“I was born and raised on 60th Street in West Philly,” Kennedy said. “I played a lot of basketball in North Philly. I would have to say my mentors were the Morris twins. They kind of showed me the game. They always made sure everything was all right for me. They made sure I was trying my best and working my hardest.
“The Hunting Park Warriors were my squad. We had some good players like Jerrell Wright [La Salle] John Johnson [Penn State] and Erik Copes [George Mason]. We had a lot of guys. We had a pretty good team.”
Kennedy plays for former Sixers head coach and Hall of Famer Larry Brown at SMU. Brown has two assistants Eric Snow and George Lynch who played on the Sixers 2001 team that went to the NBA Finals.
“It’s great playing for him,” Kennedy said. “I mean all the stories you hear about him as far as how good a coach and a teacher he is. It’s all true. He’s remarkable as a teacher. It’s still overwhelming some times I sit back and think about playing for a legend and making history. It’s all happening so fast and it’s all fun. I’m just enjoying the moment.
“Eric Snow and George Lynch played on that team which played for the championship. They bring so much insight from the NBA to college. You got to soak it up and take it in because they didn’t play 14-15 years for no reason. They know what they’re doing.”
The Mustangs are 19-5 overall and 8-3 in the American Athletic Conference. Kennedy hopes SMU can make a strong run in the NCAA tournament.
“We got a goal and that’s to get to the Final Four,” Kennedy said. “The Final Four is in Dallas. It could be great if that where we end it. That’s what we’re working towards.”
James Bell named Big 5 Player of the Week
The Philadelphia Big 5 has selected James Bell from Villanova as its player of the week. Bell continued his outstanding play by notching 27 points and eight rebounds in a victory over Xavier. He followed that up with a 20-point, six-rebound performance in a win over Seton Hall. He made 17-of-25 shots in those two games including 10-of-17 from three-point range.
La Salle to battle Saint Joseph’s at Tom Gola Arena
La Salle and Saint Joseph’s will battle in an Atlantic 10 Conference game at Tom Gola Arena on Feb. 15 at 11 a.m. The Explorers forward Jerrell Wright has been playing some terrific basketball. He averaged 18.5 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Langston Galloway has played extremely well for the Hawks. Galloway had a game-high 24 points to help Saint Joseph’s defeat VCU last week.