It’s not easy to be the son of a legend. Just ask Marcus and Jeffrey Jordan, or Jarrett Payton, living in your father’s footsteps is never easy. In Seattle, Shawn Kemp is seen as a sports icon. "The Reignman" was a human highlight reel, making the Sonics the most exciting team in the city during the 90’s.
Shawn Kemp Jr. came to the UW carrying quite the name, and was expected to bring the rim-rocking game his dad had when with the Sonics. He even decided to wear the same #40 has dad once donned in Seattle. Kemp Jr. came on as a sophomore, starting the final 14 games of the season after struggling with his conditioning during his freshman year. He averaged 8.4 points during the stretch.
After playing two seasons under Lorenzo Romar, many Husky fans were hoping this would finally be the year Kemp Jr. would live up to his potential and become "Reignman Jr."
This all took a turn when both Kemp Jr. and his mother, Genay Doyal, noticed a change during the summer. Kemp Jr. became lethargic. His energy was always low and he had a hard time holding his food. In a matter of two weeks his weight dropped from 255 pounds to 232 pounds. After visiting the doctor, Kemp was diagnosed with Graves Disease, described by MedicinePlus as "an autoimmune disorder that leads to over activity of the thyroid gland."
Symptoms for the disease include muscle weakness, anxiety, and insomnia. It was recommended that Kemp Jr. use a medical redshirt but he refused to spend a year away from basketball, having spent a year away from the game to work on his academics in high school. He underwent weekly medical examinations to find a right dose for his medicine, which made him feel sick to his stomach. A week before the Huskies opened their season against Seattle University, Kemp Jr. was quarantined 48 hours while undergoing radiation treatment.
If things weren't already tough enough, Kemp Jr. struggled with his play. He struggled both with his weight and his conditioning, and it showed on both ends of the court. Constant foul trouble kept Kemp Jr. on the bench, and he averaged just 3.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game during the first 18 contests.
But just as things have turned around for the Huskies, it has also turned around for Kemp Jr. He has returned to his original weight of 255, and has said that he is close to 100% healthy. After struggling with his conditioning, Kemp Jr. has played double digit minutes in seven of the last eight games. He scored a season high 13 points in a loss against Stanford, and was on the floor for a 31-17 run during the Huskies second half comeback against Oregon State.
Not only has his health returned, the confidence in Kemp Jr. is showing for the Huskies. While I don’t think Kemp Jr. coming back to full health makes the Huskies a contender in the Pac-12, I do think it will improve their play on both the offensive and defensive end. Now that his conditioning is coming back, I think Kemp Jr. will see an improvement in his foul troubles and can provide a much needed shot blocking presence in the paint. His soft hands on offense give the Huskies a scoring presence to go along with Perris Blackwell. Add in his athleticism and the Huskies now have a big man who can finish above the rim.
Husky fans were most likely disappointed with the performance of Kemp Jr. at the beginning of the season, but now that he is past his battle he may be what the Huskies need to make a run at an NCAA tournament bid. "Reignman Jr." can bring a new excitement to Seattle, and bring the highlight reel finishes that his dad once used to rock the Key Arena years ago.