Ferndale graduate improved himself during year away from the sport he loves

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published June 9, 2021

 Jack Kennedy graduated from Ferndale High School and will not only continue his studies at Albion College, but also play basketball there.

Jack Kennedy graduated from Ferndale High School and will not only continue his studies at Albion College, but also play basketball there.

Photo provided by Jack Kennedy

 Jack Kennedy took off his junior year of playing basketball at Ferndale High School in order to improve his mental health. He said the break not only improved his health, but made him a better person.

Jack Kennedy took off his junior year of playing basketball at Ferndale High School in order to improve his mental health. He said the break not only improved his health, but made him a better person.

Photo provided by Jack Kennedy

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FERNDALE — Ferndale High School seniors walked across the stage at the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre in Detroit June 2 for their graduation ceremony.

One senior who graduated will go to college and do something not many others will: play basketball for his school.

Jack Kennedy will be heading to Albion College, and he will represent it as a basketball player next year. He committed to playing for the school after coming off a junior year in which he didn’t play the sport.

Kennedy, an 18-year-old from Southfield, has played organized basketball since the third grade. He previously wanted to play football, but he hit a growth spurt and grew to be 6 feet, 9 inches tall. This led Kennedy to think that basketball might be a better sport for him.

Kennedy, who played center for Ferndale High, said that being able to play basketball has been a blessing for him.

“It’s like a getaway for me,” he said. “Just like for when everything is going on, I might just go to the gym and shoot around just to get things off my mind. It’s something I bond with people over. Like me and my friends, we all play basketball and we all meet up at parks, and we just play with each other and have fun. Everything I do is kind of surrounded by basketball.”

Juan Rickman, the Ferndale High School boys varsity basketball coach, said his first impression of Kennedy when he started coaching him in 2018 was that he was a great kid and that he had a lot of potential as a basketball player, even if he didn’t recognize it.

“He’s really aware, really mature,” Rickman said of Kennedy. “Jack is low maintenance. He’s incredible because with most kids his age, you have to spend a lot of time talking about girls, academics, attitude or a mental perspective. With Jack, all you talk about is basketball. So that’s more time to get better, more time for him to allocate on getting better.”

As Kennedy began his junior year of high school, he felt something was off. He saw his grades start to fall and his mental health slip. Kennedy attributed this to his class workload and personal issues that were going on at home.

In order to get himself situated, Kennedy decided to take his junior year off from playing basketball to focus on his grades and himself.

“Mentally, I just wasn’t there anymore,” he said. “It’s not that I lost the love of playing the game of basketball, but it wasn’t one of my top priorities and I was starting to slip in school a little bit, and I started to realize I needed to take a step back from a lot of things and focus on myself, and come back to playing basketball my senior year.”

“My grades were never bad, but I was getting to the point where it was unusual for me to get C’s. … I wanted to get myself back to my normal state and figure out what’s best for my mental health and what was best for me,” he continued.

With some extra time available, Kennedy started to focus on his schooling. In his year off, he had his best grades with a 3.8 GPA. He also started working with his dad at the city of Ferndale’s Department of Public Works.

Kennedy said the year off was important for not only his mental health, but for him to become a different person.

“I’m more outgoing now,” he said. “I’m more understanding to different types of situations. Before I was closed and I would stay to myself.”

Rickman said his center has been a joy to coach.

“His mom and dad have done a great job raising him,” Rickman said. “He’s just really gifted. He’s taking care of business in the classroom and being a high-character individual. It gives him an advantage over most in terms of development, because it gives him more time with him getting better at basketball.”

Coming back in his senior year, Kennedy’s grades were even better as he achieved a 4.0 GPA in his first semester. He said he pushed himself to get the best grades possible and that he looked at it as a competition similar to basketball.

Kennedy said he just wants to see what he can do to better himself.

“It’s a great feeling to know that I can go to college to get my education and play basketball at the same time,” he said. “That’s what my parents wanted for me, like, even as a kid. It feels great to be able to go do that.”

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