CHRIS MOORE — Kenneth Lofton, Jr. continues to raise the bar

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The NBA Summer League concluded and now Port Arthur native Kenneth Lofton, Jr. will wait to see what the immediate future holds for him. If Lofton does not make the Day 1 roster for the Memphis Grizzlies, it would not be indicative of his performance thus far.

The former Memorial Titans has an ability to consistently reset the bar and raise expectations at every turn. Coming out of high school, Lofton accepted a scholarship to Louisiana Tech., which is not a basketball juggernaut. The coaching staff believed he had the ability to be successful, but Lofton far exceeded expectations by becoming one of the best freshmen in the conference’s history, earning a record amount of freshman of the week awards.

His play only picked up once the Bulldogs got into the NIT tournament. His head coach had enough confidence in him to draw up a play for Lofton to take the game-winning shot in the team’s final possession of the season. And he hit it.

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From that season, Lofton tried out to play on the Team USA U19 squad. After each round of roster cuts, Lofton remained on the team. Despite playing alongside three future top-10 NBA draft picks, Lofton was the one who made the greatest impact. The team seemed to rally around him as the leader, too. If you look at photos from the celebration when the team won the gold medal, Lofton is the one in the center holding the trophy and has the American flag draped over his shoulders.

He carried that momentum into his sophomore season at Tech, posting an efficient season and solidifying himself as one of the nation’s top big men. Lofton entered the offseason with new options. He tested his NBA draft stock and entered the transfer portal with big-name schools reportedly after him. He decided to forgo his college career and test the draft.

Despite going undrafted, he signed a free agent deal with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Lofton entered the summer league on a mission to make the Day 1 roster. In the second game, he made national headlines by physically dominating the No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren, who was a teammate of Lofton on the USA team. With all eyes on Lofton after his performance, he continued to be the best player on the court each night, even outperforming his teammates that were drafted. But that doesn’t mean he is a lock to make the Grizzlies’ roster.

Memphis had one of the best rosters in the NBA last season with plenty of talent. If he does not make the roster outright, he could get what the league calls a two-way contract, which would mean he would likely play for Memphis’ G-League team and have the opportunity to get called up to the Grizzlies if they need him or if his play continues to improve.

Either way, anyone would be foolish to count him out.

 

Chris Moore is the sports editor for Port Arthur Newsmedia. He can be reached at chris.moore@panews.com.