NEW YORK -- On the morning after D.J. Kennedy's college career ended in the most heartbreaking of fashions, I couldn't help but think back to another Thursday afternoon, just two weeks ago.
A handful of reporters, including myself, were at Taffner Field House on St. John's campus, speaking to Steve Lavin and some of the players prior to their upcoming road game against Villanova.
Kennedy was asked if he believed this St. John's team was a team of destiny.
"I like to believe everybody has their time," Kennedy said. "I feel like this is our time right now. I feel like we waited three years -- this is our senior year, I feel like finally all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. I definitely feel like we have a special thing going on."
Yes, it did feel like that at certain points this season. The dramatic last-second win over Pittsburgh. The knockout in the final minutes at Nova. But destiny took a cruel twist on Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
A day after losing, albeit valiantly, to Syracuse, and losing Kennedy for the rest of the season, the Red Storm were knocked down two rungs, from a No. 4 seed to a No. 6 seed, on ESPN's Bracketology.
That's a big difference. Just look at the current projected bracket. That's the difference between playing a Patriot League Team or Ivy League in the first round, versus a team from, say, the SEC or ACC. That's the difference between playing a lower seed in the second round, versus likely playing a team that's seeded significantly higher.
But facts are facts. And the selection committee will take into account Kennedy's injury when it places St. John's on a seeding line.
As I wrote after Thursday's game, St. John's could still win some games in this year's Big Dance. But without their starting swingman, they're also more vulnerable to getting beat -- coming up just short, in a game or a possession or a moment where D.J. Kennedy might have been the difference.
But on this Friday morning, as we all get ready to watch an exciting pair of Big East semifinals and then get ready for Selection Sunday, all I can think about it is how D.J. must be feeling right now.
Kennedy, a Pittsburgh, Pa. native, agreed to join this St. John's program when it was down in the dumps, hoping to lead it back to prominence -- and he has. Not only that, he finished his Red Storm career 12th in school history in scoring (1,504 points), 11th in rebounding (781), and is one of only three players in St. John's history to amass 1,450 points, 750 rebounds and 150 steals -- the others being Malik Sealy and George Johnson.
Kennedy led St. John's in virtually every major statistical category a season ago -- points, rebounds, assists, you name it. But this season perhaps his greatest attribute was his selflessness -- allowing his own numbers to suffer, and allowing Dwight Hardy and Justin Brownlee to emerge and flourish in Lavin's new offensive scheme, becoming more of a third wheel -- although a vital one.
"I've wanted to play in the NCAA tournament since I picked up a basketball in grade school, and this is a real blow," said Kennedy in a statement released by St. John's on Thursday night, after learning of the severity of his injury. "I am disappointed on a personal level, but I am happy that I will be with my teammates on the road during the tournament, supporting them the way they always support me.”
Just one more example of Kennedy being a great teammate.
Mission accomplished, D.J. Your school is going back to the Big Dance for the first time in nine years, and you had a heck of a lot to do with it.
Try to enjoy the ride. You earned it.