Roaring Tiger: Kennerson raises game in NCAA chase

Published 8:37 pm Thursday, February 2, 2017

Joyce Kennerson of Port Arthur fell in love with her Southwestern Athletic Conference championship ring from the moment she received it.

There was just one problem: She didn’t receive it because Texas Southern won the conference tournament.

No, the Tigers — who actually shared the SWAC regular-season title with Southern and Alabama State — bowed out of the tournament semifinals at the Toyota Center in Houston, and Alabama State beat Southern for the title.

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Imagine Kennerson’s feelings this season.

“I was so anxious for the season to start so we could start being hungry,” she said.

Sure enough, the 5-foot-4 point guard has played like it.

Kennerson, who graduated from Memorial in 2015, has scored 23 or more points in six of her past nine games. On Jan. 14, two days after the syndicated radio program “From the Press Box to Press Row” named her its national player of the week, she scored a career high of 29 points against Grambling State. She shot 10 for 13 from the floor and made 9 of 13 free throws, playing all 40 minutes of a 69-61 victory.

That was the last of four straight 20-plus games for Kennerson.

“My coach keeps me in the gym,” Kennerson said. “She says, ‘You better get comfortable because you’re going to live here.’”

Memorial coach Kevin Henry said Kennerson, who was already an excellent slasher to the basket in high school, had to increase her shooting range to draw looks from collegiate scouts because of her size.

“Her senior year, she was real aggressive as far as looking to score more,” he said. “She increased her scoring average from 12 to, maybe, 17 or 19 points per game. We gave her the keys. As a freshman, she was able to come in and play a role. Her sophomore role, that’s when she was able to work into the starting role.”

At 16.2 points per game, Kennerson is third in the SWAC in scoring, behind Christina Reed of Mississippi Valley State (17.5) and Britney Wright of Alabama State (16.8).

Kennerson has a penchant for defense, too. She ranks fourth in the SWAC in steals with 2.2 per game, and she’s a solid rebounder as well at 4.3 per game.

“I like playing both defense and offense,” Kennerson said. “I think mainly offense because I like reading people. But at the same time, I like defense because … well, I just like stealing the ball.”

The Tigers (13-7, 7-2 SWAC) are tied with Alabama State for first place in the conference, with Southern, Grambling State and Alcorn State all one game behind in the 10-team race. Sixth-place Valley is just two games back.

But Kennerson believes the pieces TSU missed during last season are there for a trip to the NCAA tournament. The Tigers will receive an automatic bid if they win the conference tournament, which will return to the Toyota Center in March.

“The way we’re playing this year, it’s like we can dominate any team that comes,” Kennerson said.

Even after TSU plays archrival Prairie View A&M at home Saturday, don’t expect Kennerson to hit the town celebrating the return of the next evening’s Super Bowl.

“I’m not really a big fan of football,” she said. “The rest of my family is. Chances are, nine times out of 10, I’ll be in the gym.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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