Kemp's eldest son, Shawn Jr., making his own name
PHILADELPHIA -- The kid was seated on the floor of a gym at Philadelphia University, a few minutes after his first game at the Reebok All-American Camp on Tuesday, when a man in an official camp polo shirt walked by and mistook him for a different high-school senior-to-be. "Dan Jennings?" the man said, but received only a strange look in return.
The man altered his inquiry. "What's your name, kid?"
The man's look said B.S. "What's your name?"
"You," the man said, slightly annoyed, "ain't Shawn Kemp."
And then the man walked away.
The kid, who was wearing a No. 71 jersey with no name on the back, was not perpetrating a ruse. While he is not the Shawn Kemp of Supersonics fame and paternal infamy, he is Shawn Kemp Jr., the eldest child of the former NBA forward, and one of at least eight kids -- with at least six different mothers -- fathered by the elder Kemp. Out of the Reign Man's scattered DNA has grown another power forward who has played his way onto the national recruiting radar.
Kemp Jr. is 17. He has the nose, the ears, and the forehead of his father, but junior's overall mien is friendlier. He is 6-foot-9. He has had only sporadic contact with his pops, and has been raised by his mother, Genay Doyal, in Marietta, Ga. He has a four-star rating from Rivals.com, and is ranked 83rd overall in the class of 2009. He has scholarship offers from Alabama, Georgia, Cincinnati and Ole Miss, and strong interest from Washington and Indiana. In the winter of 2009 he'll likely make his college debut, and in his first televised playing time, the network will surely show flashbacks of the first Shawn Kemp. "Some people say I play like my dad," Kemp Jr. said. "I do what I do, but I'm trying to be my own person, too."
Unlike his father -- who was kicked out of Kentucky in 1988 before playing a game, but was still taken in the first round of the 1989 NBA draft by Seattle -- Junior is not yet forecasted as a major pro prospect. On Tuesday a multitude of high-profile D-I coaches, including Florida's Billy Donovan, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski and Maryland's Gary Williams, looked on as Kemp's Reebok camp team (the "Jason Terry" squad) played its first game. Kemp started in promising fashion, throwing down a dunk for his squad's first points, but then sputtered to a final stat line of four points and just two rebounds. Summer all-star camps tend to be guard-dominated affairs, but Kemp's impact was still noticeably small in his second game, in which he scored two points and pulled down two boards.
Kemp has too much of everyone's favorite recruiting buzzword -- "upside" -- to be ignored, though. That begins with his growth potential. "Have you seen his feet?" asked Roger Kvam, his coach at Cherokee High (Canton, Ga.), over the phone. "They're huge -- size 19 already. And his wingspan is 7-1." Kemp said doctors have told him he should become a 7-footer by the age of 21.
He has also had limited exposure to the game: He didn't start playing hoops competitively until the eighth grade, but has quickly developed into a dunking force. Kvam said Kemp had more than 60 slams in 28 games at Cherokee this past season, and, while playing close to the basket, shot 70 percent from the field. Kemp may not have the polished skills of his dad, but Kvam said, "He's very explosive for his size. For me, that's the correlation to his father's game."
Goyal, who grew up in Bellevue, Wash., said she met Kemp's dad in 1989, just weeks after he had arrived in Seattle as a 19-year-old NBA rookie. Their son was born in the summer of 1991, and, although they never married, they jointly decided to name the boy Shawn Kemp Jr. They would regularly attend Sonics games for the first few years of his life, and "while he was somewhat conscious of it," Doyal said, "I don't think it really kicked in for [Shawn Jr.] that he had a famous father."