AKRON, Ohio - Whether or not Kenny Kaminski rises in the rankings this week after participating in the LeBron James Skills Academy is immaterial to the Michigan State power forward commitment. What's more eye-opening to Kaminski and his future MSU coaches is that Kaminski's numbers are rising on the height chart and weight scales
Kaminski, who rose to a No. 77 national ranking last year as a 6-foot-7, spot-shooting power forward, measured in at a true 6-foot-8 and 246 pounds at the LeBron Camp earlier this week. That's an inch taller and 15 pounds heavier than a year ago for the rising senior from Medina, Ohio. And he is playing bigger too.
"It's a good thing," Kaminski said following Wednesday's workouts at the camp. "My doctor said a few years ago I'd be 6-5. He was wrong. Hopefully I can squeeze a couple more inches. You don't find too many 6-foot-9, 6-foot-10 shooters that can go inside or outside.
"I like to have a little extra weight for inside the paint. I go inside and outside, so I'll have to be able to guard a post player. A lot of them are bigger than I am so I feel as I add more weight and get better at things like leverage, I can be pretty solid in there."
Kaminski is carrying his added weight well. He's solid, with broadening shoulders and a good base of calf thickness.
"I would like to come into college at 260 and then cut down," Kaminski said. "I expect to lose some body fat when I get to Michigan State."
But first this business about working out against sizable foes at the LeBron Camp. Seven of the power forwards ranked above Kaminski in the Rivals.com listings are participating in the LeBron Camp. Eight of the top 17 centers on the Rivals.com rankings are also at the LeBron Camp, which will give Kaminski a chance to grapple with them in the low post after defensive switches.
"I'm the tallest person in Medina," Kaminski said. "Here, I can work out with kids that are a lot bigger and stronger than I am and all it does is make me a better player in the end. There are a few guys here that are 7-foot, 280 or 290 and it's hard to play defense on them but I know if I get low and use my leverage and strength that I can make it difficult for them to catch it where they want. And if I get them off the spot where they want to catch it, 90 percent of the time a guy won't do anything with it, which is a success for the team at that point. My dad has worked with me a lot about things like that."
Kaminski's father played Division III basketball at Baldwin-Wallace.
No Longer An Exposure Camp
In the early years of the NIKE Camp, from the early-1990s to the mid-2000s when it was staged in Indianapolis, the event was billed as an exposure showcase more so than it is today. When the camp was renamed the LeBron Skills Academy and moved to Akron late last decade, camp organizers downsized player participation from just under 300 in the old days to just under 100 today.
With more players making early commitments these days, there is also less emphasis on borderline players trying to impress coaches at NIKE's main individual camp of the summer. Most of the players at the LeBron Camp already have offers from their desired schools. The camp has taken on more of a player development tone, with fewer "camp games" and more instruction.
On Wednesday, players went through offensive set installation, rehearsing some basic plays that they will run when "camp games" begin late Thursday afternoon. Players were also drilled on the basics of help defense. Camp counselors didn't hold back from barking loudly at players.
There was strong emphasis on playing with urgency, and being active without the ball.
"It was basically review for me," Kaminski said. "My high school coaches and my father bleed defense. It helps going over defensive principles. A lot of the players here can score at will, and seeing if I can stop one of those players will be a good challenge and could help me tremendously."
Izzo is expected to be in Akron on Thursday, the first day that college coaches are allowed at the event. In addition to checking up on Kaminski, Izzo will also be watching 2012 Top 25 target Gary Harris, as MSU coaches seek to round out the Spartans' rising senior recruiting class, which already includes Kaminski, Matt Costello and Denzel Valentine. Costello and Valentine are in Indianapolis this week.
Izzo was at an AAU tournament in Indianapolis on Wednesday as the July evaluation period began.
"I know my goals; Coach Izzo knows my goals; I know Coach Izzo's goals for me, so that's what I'm focused on, trying to accomplish more and achieve more," Kaminski said.
An Assist From Izzo's Favorite Sport
Kaminski has split time between basketball camp and football camp this summer. Kaminski, a star tight end at Medina High, recently participated in a Medina County 7-on-7 skills camp with members of his high school team.
During Kaminski's visit to East Lansing on June 26, Izzo spoke with him about basketball goals, football workouts and family.
Of particular interest was Kaminski's football exploits.
"Last year, we were a running team and I only had eight catches," Kaminski said. "I dropped one. I got hit pretty hard across the middle.
"This year, we have a new coach and it's more of a spread offense. He told me 90 percent of the first game I'm going to be split out.
"We just got a new tight end coach. He and I do a lot of stuff and he told me a goal of mine should be to first-team All-Ohio at tight end."
Most importantly to Izzo, he and Kaminski believe football helps him on the basketball court.
"Football brings out the toughness in me and that carries over to the floor," Kaminski said. "Footwork, being on the line and also now splitting out as a tight end, the physical conditioning of it helps me through basketball season. The only thing that could possibly be a detriment is possibly being injured. I have broken both collar bones in football. That set me back a little bit.
"One of the things that helps with my attention to football is that now that I'm stronger, attacking the rim comes a lot easier, especially through contact. That helps out a lot and I'm noticing a difference this year."
But he has found that basketball skills can gain rust rather quickly.
"I tried lifting more this summer and I took a couple of days off from basketball, and I was a little shaky getting back into it, but I'm real confident now," Kaminski said. "My skills are back to being sharp. I'm shooting real well here. Last week at the Durant Camp, I felt like I was shooting incredibly, which I was pretty happy about."
He is hoping his shooting will stay hot this week, for Izzo's eyes more so than anyone else's.
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