Not even a heart transplant just three weeks ago could keep a Franklin man from watching the NBA Draft Thursday night.
Ronald Herold, 70, had a heart transplant on May 30 at the University of Kentucky Hospital. He sat at the counter at A&G Pizza — where every seat was reserved Thursday — and watched the draft when Franklin’s Luke Kennard, who attended Duke for two seasons, was drafted No. 12 by the Detroit Pistons.
When the pick was announced, the crowd at A&G erupted and chanted: “LUKE! LUKE! LUKE!”
Before the draft, Herold’s mouth was covered by a cloth mask to reduce the possibility of infections. Every Wednesday, he said, he travels to Lexington to meet with the medical staff for testing.
But nothing was going to keep him from watching the NBA Draft in Franklin, he said.
“I wouldn’t miss Luke for anything,” said Herold, who started following Kennard’s athletic accomplishments eight years ago. “He’s just a great person. There couldn’t be a better kid.”
No one — at least no one at A&G Pizza — was disputing that fact Thursday night. Franklin fans have packed the restaurant for every Duke televised game the past two seasons, and they returned to watch the city’s “favorite son” become an instant millionaire.
Right after being drafted, Kennard was shown on TV hugging his parents, Mark and Jennifer Kennard, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Warren County Common Pleas Judge Jeff Kirby, a Franklin graduate, watched the NBA Draft and said the Kennard family’s deep roots in the community made cheering for Kennard easy.
Kirby, for instance, said if an athlete of Kennard’s talent had moved into Franklin as a freshman, he would have been “embraced” by the city.
But with Kennard, it was a love fest.
“He is everybody’s son,” Kirby said. “Everybody knows a Kennard, and because of that, Luke is everybody’s boy. They feel like they can adopt him as their own. We all have known the Kennards for 40 years.”
Kennard is one of those rare athletes who excels on the court and has a personality just as impressive, Kirby said.
“He is so humble,” the judge said. “He is so appreciative of this town, of his coaches, of his teammates, of his classmates and that’s even more reason to root for him. He appreciates all of us.”
He has meant a lot to the Franklin business community, said Debbie Fouts, owner of A&G. She said Brian Bales, Franklin’s coach and athletic director, told her to open the pizza parlor and she would be supported by the community.
“He changed the landscape of our city,” she said. “What a great ambassador.”
Kennard isn’t the highest local player ever drafted in the NBA. Two Miami University players were drafted in the Top 10.
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Wally Szczerbiak sixth overall in 1999; and Ron Harper was selected eighth overall in the 1986 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.