Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK –D.J. Kennedy flashed a smile as he appeared with his St. John’s teammates on the CBS “Selection Sunday” show.
The No. 6-seeded Johnnies (21-11) are headed to a first-round showdown with No. 11 Gonzaga (22-9) in Denver in the Southeast region of the NCAA Tournament. It is the Johnnies’ first tournament appearance since 2002, which was vacated by the NCAA.
But Kennedy won’t get to play.
Having spent four years at St. John’s waiting for his chance to dance, fate cruelly interceded on Thursday when Kennedy tore is right ACL during a collision against Syracuse in the Big East tournament quarterfinals.
“D.J.’s experience today was bittersweet,” St. John’s coach Steve Lavin said. “On the one hand he’s proud in knowing that our team wouldn’t be in this position to do something special if it wasn’t for his contributions to our efforts this season.
“And yet he’s devastated with the realization that he’s not going to be able to participate in the NCAA Tournament in the sport that he loves so much.
“So I think it’s a real bittersweet moment and it will be until our journey is complete.”
In en effort to honor his injured friend, teammate and roommate, St. John’s Sean Evans took the lead.
Evans said a lot of fans reached out to him on Twitter, asking what they could do for Kennedy and suggesting the slogan, “Do it for D.J.”
So Evans went to a T-shirt establishment near his apartment in Queens last Thursday and had two black T-shirts made with red lettering.
“Do it for D.J.” the shirts read on the front.
“I Am My Brother’s Keeper,” reads the back.
Now Evans is being inundated for requests for more and more shirts.
“I’m going to help everyone else get them one, too,” Evans said.
Kennedy himself doesn’t own a shirt yet and hadn’t even seen it until Evans wore it Sunday on TV.
“He was really happy for it,” Evans said. “Me and D.J., we got more than a basketball relationship. We’re really close, so that means a lot to him. And that’s what I wanted to do just to show my thanks and gratitude for what he’s done for me several years.”
Ironically, Evans, who was deep in Lavin’s doghouse until the last two months of the season, will now play a more prominent role in Kennedy’s absence.
“I was just waiting for that chance and I think I got it now and I’m just going to keep at it and play as hard as I can, do as much as I can for the team, especially with D.J. down it’s going to need someone to step up,” Evans said. “And I think I’m going to try to do that.”
Kennedy, meanwhile, will act as a coach from the bench, hoping to inspire his teammates with his words.
“For him to be around still and be able to take a step back and coach us, we’ll definitely listen and we think we’ll learn a lot from him now,” senior Justin Burrell said.
Senior guard Dwight Hardy said St. John’s will need Kennedy’s to be positive going forward despite the injury.
“It helps us, man,” he said. “When we don’t see him down, when we see him joyful it lets us know that he’s going fine and he just wants us to do well out there on the court.
“Anytime you see a person down, you kind of get down yourself. Even though he’s not playing with us, we don’t need to get down on ourselves. We need to just rally for him and compete at high level and make a great run.”
(Photo courtesy Daily News)
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.