Kentan Facey wasn't always a basketball junkie. The Long Island Lutheran junior from the Caribbean island of Jamaica was a soccer player until age 14. "The coach at my school asked me if I wanted to play basketball," Facey said.
Was it a particular skill Facey displayed on the soccer pitch? "It was because I was 6-5," he said, sheepishly.
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Four years and 4 inches later, Facey is a starting forward on a team that plays a demanding national schedule and has developed his hoops skills to the point where he has drawn interest from several Division I colleges, including a couple in the Ivy League.
It's not only his basketball IQ that has people talking.
"He's very well educated. He's a very smart young man," said Lutheran coach John Buck, who also has Facey in math class. "He's really just starting to learn the game, but just seeing the productivity he's able to give at this point, it's scary."
Facey is slender, graceful and athletic. He has the skill to slide along the baseline for one-handed dunks, block shots in the paint, rebound or hit the short-range jumper. Just not always in the same game.
"He's been hurt early," Buck said, noting an ankle sprain, "so his scoring average is down. But he will get easy points in transition and around the rim, and you can throw the ball to him in the post and ask him to make one-on-one moves. He's going to be pretty special."
"That's one of my goals, to play Division I basketball," Facey said. "That's why I came to Lutheran."
Facey, whose parents remain in Jamaica, lives with a host family in Baldwin. He played at Upper Room last season but wanted the rigors of LuHi's demanding schedule.
"You've got to raise the bar a lot higher here than what I was used to last year," he said. "It's definitely something I look forward to every night."
He's been raising the bar a lot since his Jamaica days.
"The speed of the game, that was really a challenge," Facey said. "They don't push it half as fast as we push it here. It's crazy. Getting used to it is tough, but that's what I like to do -- get out and run. Conditioning is not a problem for me. Here, kids work on ballhandling and shooting. In Jamaica, you just run."
Facey started honing his skills at a camp run by Jamaica Basketball Development Inc., whose vice president, Steve Johnston, discovered him.
"What I noticed was that during every break in drills, he was still shooting the ball," Johnston said. "That showed he had drive and commitment to the game. Only later did I learn that he's one of the smartest kids I've ever met."
"He has tremendous athleticism and length, and good hands and touch," Buck said. "Those are things that I think will keep him playing basketball for a long time."
If so, it's not as if Facey grew up bouncing and shooting a basketball throughout his childhood as someone from, say, Jamaica, Queens might. "There are no hoops in the backyards in Jamaica," Johnston said. "You have to find a court to play on."
Facey has found courts and classrooms to his liking in the United States. He has a teenager's swagger about one of those venues. "In the classroom, that's pretty much a given," he said, matter-of-factly. "That's not a worry for me. I'm a good student.
"On the court, that's what I need to take care of right now. I'm constantly working on my jump shot and my ballhandling. I have a lot to learn."