Keyser's PJ Kennedy signs with Penn Highlands
By Chapin Jewell
KEYSER - PJ Kennedy has filled area basketball courts with an infectious, upbeat attitude the last several years as a member of the Keyser Golden Tornado basketball program.
The attitude is contagious, spilling over to teammates, coaches, and even fans.
On Tuesday, July 28, Kennedy announced his commitment to take that upbeat, positive attitude and his talents to the next level as a member of the Penn Highlands Community College basketball program.
Hailing from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, the Penn Highlands Black Bears compete under the sanctioning of the National Junior College Athletic Association in Region XX, at the Division III level.
For Kennedy, having the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level is the realization of a lifetime dream. A dream that began as far back as the third grade, with a realization round about his freshman year in high school that the dream might be attainable.
“I got my start in basketball in the third grade and I started on a fourth and fifth grade team in the Frankfort league. It’s always been a childhood dream of mine but I realized I could play at the college level when I was a freshman at Keyser,” Kennedy stated.
Kennedy enjoyed a solid career as a Golden Tornado, where he averaged 11.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Along the way, Kennedy earned the respect of his teammates and coaches for his unselfish play, and desire to not just better himself, but those around him with his approach.
“PJ’s a player that loves the sport of basketball and works his butt off to better his game. He plays to make his team better and he really works hard in the off season to make himself a complete player,” Keyser head basketball coach John Haines stated.
According to Haines, “His personality is a trait I really love. He’s a positive young man that tries to make himself and the team better, on and off the court. His attitude was contagious, which will help him excel in college. We wish him the best and are very excited to watch him compete at the next level.”
While successful at bettering his game and the game of those around him, Kennedy enjoyed success and built a treasure chest of memories from his time as a Keyser basketball player.
“One of my biggest, best, and most memorable moment was winning the sectional championship at Frankfort my senior season. One of my favorite accomplishments is making the all PVC team,” Kennedy explained.
Chief among his treasured memories also is that Keyser basketball was a family affair for the Kennedy’s, with his younger brother Amare playing alongside him, and father Perry serving as an assistant coach. The Brothers Kennedy were at times a tough tandem to tame for the opposition
According to Kennedy, “I was thrilled to be able to play with my younger brother and to also have my dad as a coach.”
PJ cites his family as his biggest supporters along his basketball and life journey. Kennedy is quick to also credit his Keyser High School basketball family, which includes coaches and teammates, as a tremendous source of supports as well.
“My biggest supporters throughout this journey have been my dad, my mom, my brothers, and the rest of my family. Also, I’ve had a lot of support from Coach Haines and the rest of the KHS coaching staff, and my teammates at KHS are some of the best friends I could ask for,” Kennedy stated.
Kennedy also credits Keyser High School and the quality of its teachers as being supportive on his educational journey.
According to Kennedy, “I’ve had some of the best teachers ever that stayed on me and made sure I knew what I was doing. This led me to be on the honor roll my entire senior year.”
With high school now behind him, Kennedy is busy preparing himself mentally and physically for the rigors of collegiate athletics. With basketball specifically, that entails Kennedy utilizing a hard work ethic that has served him well to this point.
“I will continue to work on getting physically stronger, getting in basketball shape, and perfecting my jumper,” Kennedy detailed.
While Kennedy remained optimistic that his dream of playing in college would happen, the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 virus made the recruitment process difficult. Despite the restrictions, ultimately PJ was able to learn all he needed to know to make his commitment to Penn Highlands.
“Due to COVID-19, I haven’t been able to visit the school, but I’ve met all my teammates, coaches, and the athletic director, and they are really cool people and show a lot of love. I chose Penn Highlands because Coach Loya believed in me when other schools stopped recruiting me. I will be majoring in Business Management,” Kennedy explained.
PJ Kennedy has worked hard and dedicated himself to the craft of basketball. His high energy dedication of the Keyser High School basketball program and off season work through travel ball organizations like the Potomac Valley Phenoms has paid off by improving his game, allowing him a chance to realizing his dream of playing at the next level.
It’s been an usual recruitment year no doubt, but through it all, Kennedy has persevered. Perseverance is another trait you can add to PJ’s arsenal of positivity.
PJ Kennedy had the respect of his teammates and coaches for making himself and those around him better basketball players and people, he earned that respect. Now it’s on to Penn Highlands where he will do the same for the Black Bears.