Kenneth Faried leaving lasting legacy at Morehead

College basketball’s best rebounder just shakes his head

wondering how he got to this point in his career.

Kenneth Faried never thought he’d make it this far, at least not

at Morehead State.

The 6-foot-8 senior center – who broke Tim Duncan’s modern-day

NCAA record for career rebounds while leading the Eagles (24-9) to

their second Ohio Valley Conference championship in three seasons –

shrugs his muscled shoulders when asked how a black kid from

Newark, N.J. survived four years in the eastern Kentucky hills.

”If you’re committed to me, I’m committed to you,” Faried said

while playing with his trademark dreadlocks. ”Morehead State, they

stuck with me through the hard times.”

And there were hard times.

He nearly quit during his freshman season, storming off the

floor one day as coach Donnie Tyndall put the Eagles through

another grueling conditioning drill. Faried called his mother,

Waudda, asking to come home. She told him to grow up and get back

on the floor.

Bigger schools who ignored Faried as a raw high schooler tried

to lure him away as a sophomore after seeing the way his relentless

rebounding helped guide the Eagles to their first NCAA tournament

appearance in 25 years.

”We had scumbags all around the country trying to pull him

away,” Tyndall said.

He toyed with leaving early for the NBA last spring after being

named Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year as scouts flocked

to watch him play.

Yet the rambunctious kid with the still thick Jersey accent

opted to stick at the modest school with almost zero basketball

tradition. One that’s spent decades rendered nearly invisible

playing in the shadow of Kentucky, an hour west by the interstate,

a lifetime away by reputation.

Not that Faried didn’t want to leave.

More than once he and best friend Demonte Harper, a senior

guard, sat in their dorm room as freshmen role players in the midst

of a so-so 15-15 season and plotted a way out.

”We felt like we just needed to leave,” Faried said. ”We were

like, ‘there’s not going to be any success here. We’re not ever

going to do anything.’ That’s when we realized we’ve got to put in

the work.”

There’s not much else to do in Morehead.

There’s no mall. The local sports bar serves as night life.

There’s just school and basketball.

So Faried dedicated himself. Turned his anger of being

overlooked into fuel. When Morehead would play in a series of

”guarantee” games against big-time schools like Louisville he’d

see more heralded players giving half the effort and do his best to

embarrass them.

Rick Pitino noticed. So did Florida coach Billy Donovan, who

called Faried a ”freak.” Donovan compared him to former NBA star

Dennis Rodman after watching Faried put up 20 points and grab 18

rebounds in a tough six-point loss to the Gators last fall.

”There is nobody like him,” Donovan said. ”He is totally

different. Sometimes people talk about why he’s a great rebounder,

athletically he’s at a different level. You add in the fact he’s a

relentless pursuer of the basketball and that he understands what

he does … there are not a lot of Kenneth Farieds floating around

out there.”

Certainly not in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Tyndall believes Faried is a ”once in a lifetime player” in

the OVC. It’s not just talent. Sure his body has matured – his

frame is a chiseled 235-pounds, 50 pounds heavier than when he

arrived on campus – but so have his instincts.

”It’s like he just knows where the ball is going to go,”

Harper said.

Faried enters the NCAA tournament next week with 84 career

double-doubles, tied with Ralph Sampson for second-most all-time

behind Tim Duncan. His 1,643 career rebounds are a modern day

(post-1973) record.

This from a player who couldn’t make a left-handed layup as a

freshman. Who still struggles offensively. Who quickly grew winded

when asked to play for long stretches as an underclassman before

undergoing nose surgery last summer to help him breath more


There have been other issues too. His mother has battled a

series of health problems throughout her adult life, including

Lupus. Getting to watch her son play was an ordeal. Her future

weighed on him. More than once he pleaded with her to let him come

home and let him take care of her.

When he considered heading to the NBA, the idea of providing his

mother with some financial security was one of the motivating

factors. But a handful of sobering phone calls helped Faried decide

to stay in school.

Tyndall had Faried sit in his office while the coach talked to

NBA officials about Faried’s draft prospects. Tyndall would put the

call on speakerphone so Faried could hear the details. He can’t

shoot. His footwork in the post needs polish. He’s a tweener too

small to play center and not skilled enough to play forward.

”I thought I was doing alright, you know, I was conference

player of the year last year, and then it was like, ‘man,”’ Faried

said. ”But you know, I needed to hear that. I needed to know. It

keeps you grounded.”

There’s a selflessness to Faried that keeps his teammates at

ease. He doesn’t ask for the ball on offense, though his 17.6

points a game leads the team.

Faried’s post-basketball goal is becoming a game analyst. The

big man with the charismatic smile is on track to graduate in May

with a degree in speech communication.

It’s heady territory for a player whose AAU teammates –

including Pittsburgh’s Travon Woodall and Florida’s Mike Rosario –

laughed when he told them his college destination.

”They were like, ‘are you serious, no, really, where are you

going?”’ Faried said. ”I got rolled hard for coming here.”

Look who’s rolling now.