Duke Basketball: Pistons’ Luke Kennard makes most of chance to start

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

A former Duke basketball sharpshooter drew his first start since October for the Detroit Pistons on Monday night and responded to the opportunity by scoring a career-high.

Luke Kennard, who used his sweet stroke to lead the 2016-17 Duke basketball team in scoring when he was a sophomore, has had a rough start to his sophomore campaign as a professional — that is, until Monday night.

Prior to the Detroit Pistons’ 116-102 loss on the road to the Philadelphia 76ers, Kennard’s lone start this season came on opening night.

But on Monday, the 3-point specialist, whose shoulder strain sidelined him for a 16-game stretch that included the entire month of November, had a chance to begin the game on the floor opposite another former Blue Devil shooting phenom, the 76ers’ J.J. Redick, who finished with 13 points.

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And Kennard wasted no time showing Pistons first-year coach Dwane Casey that the starting role was well-deserved. He scored the first five points of the game and ended the first quarter with nine points.

The 6-foot-5, 205-pound Ohio native finished with a game-high 28 points on 11-for-18 shooting from the field, including a 5-for-8 clip from beyond the arc. He also snagged eight rebounds and dished out three assists.

Not only did Kennard’s performance give him a new career-high in points, but it was also the only time this season he has scored in double figures. The lefty is averaging just 6.8 points this season — he’s appeared in just eight games thus far — after averaging 7.6 points last season as a rookie.

However, don’t be surprised if his 2018-19 scoring average rises quickly in coming games.

The 13-12 Pistons, who have now lost five straight after winning five straight, are riddled with injuries at the moment. As a result, Kennard is expected to once again get the starting nod from Casey when the team travels to take on the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

And if Kennard, the 12th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft who started nine games last season, continues to get buckets as easily and often as he did on Monday — resembling his playing days in Durham — don’t be surprised if his starting gig becomes permanent.

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Stay tuned to Ball Durham all season for coverage of highlight performances by former Blue Devils playing in the NBA.