At 6-foot-10, Jakoby Kemp is hard to miss. But basketball coaches coast to coast didn’t seem to notice the recent Layton (Utah) High graduate.
Kemp broke both bones in his lower right leg when he was hit by a car as he crossed the street during the summer before his sophomore year.
He needed three months to recover after surgery to insert a metal rod in his fibula, but he never fretted about the impact it would have on his basketball career.
“That wasn’t really a thought in my mind,” Kemp said. “I was trying to stay positive and keep a positive mindset.”
It proved to be a useful lesson in perseverance when the college recruiting process took longer than expected for Kemp, who has grown five inches since the accident but maintains uncommon athleticism and agility for a 6-10 teenager.
Kemp played for the Utah 5A state champions as a junior in 2015, but few four-year schools came calling.
Even when he averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds last season while helping Layton return to the state semifinals, Kemp generated little buzz in recruiting circles.
“He never really played on a big-time (AAU) team, so, when a lot of kids are getting noticed, he didn’t get as much attention,” Layton coach Kelby Miller said. “I really believe that was one of the main issues with the late recruitment of him.”
Kemp kept a positive attitude about that, too, and it paid off last week when he received an offer from Missouri and committed Tuesday in a phone call to coach Kim Anderson.
“The start of my senior season, I was kind of nervous, but I had family tell me everything would be OK and it would eventually roll around,” Kemp said.
The Tigers, like most other programs, discovered Kemp late in the recruiting cycle, but assistant coach Rob Fulford’s sales pitch won his services last week.
“It’s awesome and feels like an elephant is off my back,” Kemp said. “I don’t have to worry anymore.”
Kemp, whose given first name is Kedric — he goes by his middle name — is expected to arrive in Columbia on July 9 to begin working out with Mizzou, which was eager to add a skilled big man with one of two remaining scholarships for the 2016-17 season.
He’s a Rivals three-star prospect who figures to play as a stretch four if he can develop his outside shot but also has value as a small forward if the Tigers choose to play a bigger lineup.
“Missouri is getting a kid with a ton of athleticism,” Miller said. “He can really put it on the floor and get to the hoop for someone his size. He can handle it in transition and has shown, at times, he can step out and shoot the three. He’s just a really well-rounded player.”
Kemp said the appeal of the Southeastern Conference was a big draw for him, calling it the “biggest conference in the world and there’s great competition.” He knows Mizzou’s had hard times the last few seasons, but he’s used to fighting against the odds.
“They’re in the rebuilding process, but I think I could help with that, and I like the style of play they run,” Kemp said. “I see myself as a stretch four/three with my versatility.”
As he puts on muscle through the rigors of a college training regimen, he’s confident he can develop into a solid post defender. Miller believes he’ll continue to improve as a rebounder.
Kemp, whose older brother Marcus plays wide receiver for Hawaii, canceled scheduled visits to LSU and Memphis after committing to Missouri. He previously visited Southern Miss and also had interest from VCU, TCU, Tennessee-Martin and Milwaukee, among others.