Friday, May 27, 2022

Former Liberty Christian hoops standout lands in Boston

Whirlwind clearly describes the past six months for Luke Kornet.

It all started in Boston where the 2013 Liberty Christian Academy graduate and former Lantana resident participated in training camp with the world-renowned Celtics. Initially he was assigned to the team’s Portland, Maine, affiliate in the National Basketball Association G-League.

Right before Christmas, he joined the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers on a 10-day contract playing twice and scoring four points. When that deal expired, he moved to the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks – the same team for which his father and Liberty coach Frank Kornet played 89 games in 1989-1991 – on another 10-day deal.

“That definitely was pretty cool. It’s crazy how life can go,” the 7-foot-2, 252-pounder said of his short time in Milwaukee. “My family was pretty excited. It was a cool circle thing. I wasn’t alive when my Dad was playing so it was fun to come back in a weird way and experience what he did a little bit.”

After appearing in one game for three minutes with the Bucks, he went back to Maine for about a month before the Celtics signed him for the rest of the season in mid-February.

“It was a pretty whirlwind three weeks. But it was a great opportunity to be with those teams,” he said.

Through March 13 he played four times for the Celtics but had yet to score a point. Now he and his teammates – including former Marcus High School star Marcus Smart – are gearing up for what they hope is a long run in the NBA playoffs.

“It’s been a chaotic year being all over the place, but it’s definitely a blessing to be back here and have assurance I will be here the rest of the season,” he said, “My family and I are grateful to be able to settle in Boston. It’s a great opportunity.”

In the offseason, he lives in Nashville with wife Tierney and their 1-year-old daughter after graduating from Vanderbilt University there in 2017. It’s also the same town where his parents live. His mom Tracy – a six-time Emmy Award-winning journalist who previously worked at CBS 11 in Fort Worth – is an evening news anchor for the NBC affiliate in Music City. Frank recently left a high school coaching job to work for Amazon.

Luke Kornet

The Kornets moved to Texas from Phoenix when Luke was in sixth grade. He spent two years at Denton’s McMath Middle School before transferring to Liberty. Other than when his teams play in Dallas and for friends’ weddings, he hasn’t been back to North Texas in quite a while but still has fond memories of his time at Liberty.

“It was a great school and a great place to learn including about our faith,” he said. “It definitely allowed me to develop friendships that will last the rest of my life. I really loved my time at that school.”

Though Luke was not selected in either round of the 2017 NBA draft, that same night he signed to a two-way contract with the New York Knicks, which allows a player to sign a guaranteed deal with an NBA franchise and play for both its NBA professional team and its G-League affiliate.

After starting the season with their G-League affiliate in Westchester, he played in 20 games with the parent club as a rookie and 46 in his second year.

“There was a little bit of hope getting drafted but honestly being able to get a two-way deal right after was a great position to be,” he said. “It ended up being a great place. In a lot of ways it was a great thing not to get drafted.”

One reason is it allowed Kornet more chances to play and learn how the pros differed from college.

“I was able to get adjusted to the professional game and get an understanding of how your game is going to look like at that level,” he said. “College is so different from a rules and style perspective. So that was a great experience learning what kinds of positions and the movements and types of shots and defensively what you’re going to be doing. It was a great opportunity for me to get reps which was a great experience.”

He immediately noticed how pro players differed in size and speed especially with their longer arms and ability to get up and down the court faster.

“In college, there always were guys on the floor you didn’t necessarily have to respect,” he said. “The skill level is so much higher in the NBA. You have to make more plays individually where especially for me in college it was more team structured that helped you get shots. Here everyone is a threat.”

When his two years with New York ended, he signed as a free agent with the Chicago Bulls in 2019. He played in 59 games over nearly two seasons before being traded to Boston in February 2021 appearing in 18 games.

“There were different periods of the season in Chicago where I started, some where I was coming off the bench and others where I wasn’t playing,” he said. “It wasn’t too much of a difference from what I experienced in New York so I was pretty prepared for that. Your role can change pretty quickly depending on what the team needs.”

Late in his Knicks’ tenure, he suffered a broken nose that hindered his breathing. After he got to Chicago he finally had surgery to correct the problem but soon after fully recovering broke his left ankle. He’s been injury-free so far in Boston allowing him to run his career games played to 140 while averaging 5.6 points and 2.6 rebounds.

A free agent after this season, he would love to stay in Boston for the rest of his career.

“I have a great relationship with the people here like Brad Stevens, now the general manager who was the coach last year,” he said. “It’s a familiar place and it’s great to be back with these guys.”

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