Watch Mike Kennedy talk about his career and his senior season.
He is the second-leading active career scorer in all of college basketball and may be destined to finish as the No. 2 all-time scorer in St. Ambrose men's hoops history. But Mike Kennedy hasn't been counting his buckets this season.
He has been counting victories instead.
Two-time senior All-American Kennedy and Coach Ray Shovlain's Fighting Bees will take an 11-game winning streak and a 21-8 record into Saturday's regular-season finale at Iowa Wesleyan.
The Bees already have clinched their first Midwest Collegiate Conference title since 2005, which was three years before Kennedy set foot on campus.
Their season-ending rush has won the Bees home-court advantage throughout next week's MCC postseason tourney. More importantly, the regular season title assures them a berth in the 32-team NAIA Division II National Championships March 7-13 at Point Lookout, Mo.
The national tournament has been a goal for Kennedy and fellow fourth-year starter Chris Donnelly since their freshmen season. But, the glass-half-full kind of guy that he is, Kennedy said the fact they haven't been to Point Lookout yet only makes this impending trip all the more sweet.
"Obviously, we would have liked to have gone there by now," he said, bemoaning a last-second loss at Iowa Wesleyan that ended last year's 23-7 season in the MCC tourney semis. "We came so close last year. It's definitely more rewarding this year."
Making it all the more rewarding, Donnelly said, is the year that has been endured by the man who has patrolled the St. Ambrose sidelines since long before Donnelly, Kennedy, and four other current seniors arrived in 2008.
"I have always wanted to take him to the national tournament," Donnelly said of Shovlain, who kept his Bees focused and winning even while his wife Betsy battled breast cancer this year. "He has done a lot for all of us. The nationals are always his goal, so especially in a year like this, it just makes it that much better."
Even Shovlain, who typically defers the focus to his players, agreed the season has been "gratifying from the standpoint of it being a long haul."
He said his wife (pictured at left), who has completed chemotherapy after undergoing a bilateral mastectomy in October and is back at work at Davenport Assumption High School, insisted he keep his focus on the job and their son and daughter at home while she received treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"She was adamant about that," the veteran coach said. "She said, ‘I want as much of a sense of normalcy as we can get.'"
Normal at St. Ambrose the past four years has meant Kennedy, a 6-foot-6 forward from Brother Rice High School in suburban Chicago, filling a box score. He became the fourth St. Ambrose men's player to surpass 2,000 career points on Jan. 18, but likely will need a deep, post-season run to move past Josh Miller for second place on the all-time SAU list.
Kennedy would love to go deep, of course, but that personal achievement isn't remotely a factor. "The team stuff is what I'll remember the rest of my life," he said.
Kennedy's skills and team-first attitude have been keys to the winning streak, Shovlain said. They also are reasons the coach likes his team's chances of bringing home hardware from the Ozarks.
"He is able to distribute the ball when he's got two or three guys on him," Shovlain said. "He can score and he can kick it to guys who can score as well. Really, that has been good because we have been able to count on so many people to score. I like our chances all the way through, really."