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As Robbie Kennedy approaches his 17th year as a head coach in high school basketball — all at Southern Nash — the Firebirds’ sideline general has just a little more on his plate during the month of July.
It’s added responsibility he’ll gladly embrace.
Kennedy, a 1993 Hunt High School graduate, will serve as the East’s head coach for the 2019 North Carolina Coaches Association East-West All-Star Game, scheduled for Monday at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Kennedy will share a piece of Southern Nash history in the game with graduated guard Darius Edmundson, who will play football at Louisburg College. When both take the floor in Greensboro, Kennedy will be the first Southern Nash boys coach to prowl the sidelines in the contest, while Edmundson, the reigning 3-A Big East Conference Player of the Year, is set to be the first Firebird boys entrant in the summer tradition.
Previously, the Ladybirds supplied three faces to the girls East-West game, with Karie Ezzell (1998) and Rhonda Deans (2001). Rosalie Ellis Bardin took the floor as the girls head coach for the 1984 game.
Kennedy, who directed Southern Nash to a 16-10 record and a third-round showing in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs, will be assisted by Pamlico head coach Earl Sadler.
“I actually got a call a couple of days after the (coaching) clinic was over with,” Kennedy explained in a telephone interview. “Just to let me know that I was going to be the head coach. I’ve been in the coaches association for over 20 years, so I’m real excited to be coaching in it and looking forward to it. I’m really honored to be doing it.”
Players will report to Greensboro on Saturday and practice before another session Sunday. A walk-through practice will be held Monday morning prior to the 8:30 p.m. tipoff.
Finding bona fide scorers was a priority for Kennedy, who doesn’t expect a great deal of defense to be played in the all-star setting.
Thus, finding guards before progressing to size was the strategy for filling out the roster. With Cary Panther Creek’s Justin McKoy, a University of Virginia signee, unavailable, a spot opened for an alternate in Edmundson — giving Kennedy one more chance to coach the 2019 Tom Ham Athlete of the Year as presented by The Wilson Times.
“I’ve talked to a couple of guys who have done basketball and kind of asked them what they’ve done (at the East-West Game),” Kennedy said. “We’re going to put in a basic offense and may put in one or two sets, but the big thing is let them go out there and play.”
Kennedy has not strayed from the asphalt of Southern Nash High Road in his coaching career. He began his coaching career just 1.8 miles down the way at Southern Nash Middle and spent three years with the Cobras before moving into an assistant’s role on Rick Ruffin’s staff with the Firebirds. When Ruffin departed for Northern Nash, Kennedy was elevated to head coach.
His East roster will consist of Edmundson as well as Greene Central’s Imajae Dodd, a UNC Wilmington signee, and Smithfield-Selma’s Anthony Council. Rounding out the group is Philip Burwell of Raleigh Millbrook, Jace McKenney of South Brunswick, Brion McLaurin of Fayetteville Seventy-First, Skykeim Phillips of Winterville South Central, Raleigh Wakefield’s Trae Smith, D.J. Thomas of Raleigh Broughton and Dharyus Thomas of Southwest Onslow.
Kennedy didn’t do an abundance of traveling in picking the roster, instead relying on networking with fellow coaches.
“When we went to Greensboro to pick the team, we kind of had a good idea of who we were going to pick,” Kennedy said.
Mike Muse of East Forsyth will serve as head coach for the West, with Cherryville’s Scott Harrill assisting.
“Basketball is a little bit different,” Kennedy said. “A lot of the guys, the Division I guys, a lot of times are either in summer school or they’re going somewhere. The kid from Holly Springs (Kadin Shedrick) and the kid from Panther Creek (McKoy) are both already at Virginia, so we couldn’t pick those guys. We looked at what guys to start the team with. What guys could score, and obviously try to get some size. We’ve got Imajae, we’ve got a kid from South Brunswick (McKenney) playing 6-6 and the kid from Fayetteville 71st (McLaurin) who’s like 6-8. So I tried to find some guys with a little bit of size too. But the way all-star games are, you want guys that can really handle and score. That was kind of my first priority.”