Jelan Kendrick is Georgia’s lone representative in the McDonald’s All-America basketball game on Wednesday. The 6-foot-7 Kendrick, who has signed with Memphis, began his illustrious prep career at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy, played at Westlake High as a junior, and finished out this past season at Wheeler High.
Q. What are your realistic goals for Wednesday’s game?
A. It’s a great accomplishment to be the only player from Georgia to make it, and to represent the state I love so much … No. 1, I want my team to win. Who wouldn’t want to break a record in the McDonald’s All-America game? You know, to let everybody know you are a great player and deserved to be in the game. Why not?
Q. How did you feel about your senior year at Wheeler?
A. It wasn’t what I was used to, so I had to adjust. It didn’t work out as I had thought at the end (with winning a state championship), but it was a great learning experience. It got me groomed for next year for when I go to Memphis. It got me out of my element. In the schools I attended (previously), all the focus was just on me. This year at Wheeler, I focused on everybody else and got my team involved. I wasn’t in the backseat, it was like I shared the front seat. It was a good experience.
Q. Thoughts on seeing your former team, Westlake, reach the championship game?
A. It was a great feeling. You know, I wanted us to win, or for them to win. Sad to say, neither one of us won. I believe if we were one team together, we would have wrecked the whole country. It was great seeing them play because those guys are like brothers to me. We’re always together, still hanging out every other weekend. Anything they accomplished, I felt as proud as I could be for them because we’re like family. Even though I didn’t stay, they understood my situation and told me that we hope to see you in the Final Four. It was great to see them in the state championship. I just wish they could’ve won the whole thing.
Q. Any regrets about leaving Westlake?
A. Well, I believe that everything happens for a reason. Who knows if I would’ve (signed) with Memphis if I would’ve stayed at Westlake? Who know if certain players at Westlake would’ve gotten to shine if I would’ve stayed there? It’s just that everything is done for a reason, and I’m so glad I had this experience (at Wheeler). There are a lot of people in Cobb County that I would’ve never met. It was a whole new experience moving out here. It was like I was from another planet. I had never been this far north (of Atlanta) in my life. It is great.
Q. What are some ways do you think you may be misunderstood?
A. My transition from the summer (of 2008) averaging 30 points … to the summer of this year, averaging way more than that in scoring and all different categories — this year people thought I fell off, as far as my high school season (17 ppg. at Wheeler), when I really didn’t. I was just taking a different perspective to the game. I wanted to get my team more involved so we could win. That’s my whole purpose in playing basketball, to win. And my team this year didn’t need me to score as much as they did in the prior years. Another thing, people always have something to say about my attitude, being where I’m from or whatever the case may be. But you can ask any of the high school coaches who have coached me and they have nothing bad to say about me. I dedicated my time to basketball, and they’ve seen my hard work. I think they were glad to see how I took the game of basketball and evolved with it. And you know, people always ask me why did you move around so much? It was not my decision. I would’ve loved to have stayed at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy with my coach, but he left to go to a college team. My mom and dad decided that I needed to go to a different school. Last year, around summer time, I wanted to (finish at) Westlake so badly but my mom and dad decided that I needed to go to another school. People always thought I was making my own decisions, but it was my mom and dad’s decision. I’ve never questioned their decisions because their decisions have helped me so much in life.
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