Brandon Kenilvort and three of his basketball coaches at Saint Martin’s University trade stories about their playing days at Sir Francis Drake High School.
The main office at Drake, a high school in San Anselmo, California — just north of San Francisco — has a tribute to the school’s basketball success.
The gym has a trophy case. Doug Donnellan, who coached at Drake for 26 years, still has photos of his former players displayed in his office.
Kenilvort played for Donnellan. So did Alex Pribble, now in his second season coaching the Saints.
Dave Granucci, one of Pribble’s assistants, is a Drake graduate. Mike Hayward, another assistant, played for his father, Pete Hayward, at Drake.
“Drake has been a really supportive basketball community since its inception in 1952,” Donnellan said. “It’s been successful, and the entire community has rallied around it.”
A strong basketball community seems to be exactly what Kenilvort is trying to help Pribble, and the rest of his staff, build at SMU.
“We all come from the same basketball background,” Kenilvort said. “A lot of the culture is all the same for us.”
The roots go deep.
“I’ve known Brandon for a very long time,” Pribble said. “Brandon and I come from the same coaching tree. I’ve been familiar with his family, with the Kenilvorts, for a long time.
“There’s been a built-in trust from the moment he stepped on campus here.”
Kenilvort remembers watching Pribble play high school ball before Pribble walked on at Cal as a freshman, and eventually earned a scholarship.
“I remember his tenacity on the court,” Kenilvort said. “He’s one of those players that, every moment of the game when you’re watching him, he’s playing his hardest. … That’s something I model my game after, too.”
Pribble watched Kenilvort play his high school ball. Pribble coached at Tamalpais, another high school in Marin County, when Kenilvort played for Drake.
“It’s just a level of tradition that’s special,” Pribble said. “He’s been well-coached all through his career.”
Kenilvort graduated from Drake in 2013, and moved on to play at College of Marin for another familiar face.
Granucci thought Kenilvort had a high ceiling. He saw a player that could be a pick-and-pop guy, and had the potential to expand his game.
“I thought he had a lot of toughness,” Granucci said about recruiting Kenilvort. “I thought he was a winner. He came from a winning program. And I thought he hadn’t tapped into his full potential.”
Granucci consulted with Donnellan, the same coach he played for at Drake.
“There’s a direct connection,” Granucci said. “You know what you’re getting. … A lot of guys can play, but are they going to go to school? Are they coachable? What kind of character do they have?
“There’s a lot of things you want to know about these guys. If you have a connection to a coach or a program that can give you honest feedback, it’s huge.”
Pribble — who was an assistant at San Francisco State and Eastern Washington before he was hired at SMU in 2015 — did the same with Granucci after Kenilvort’s sophomore season.
That’s how Kenilvort ended up at SMU, and how Granucci followed a year later.
Hayward has been with Pribble since his first season coaching the Saints.
“The kind of people they are is just what fosters success in their lives,” Donnellan said. “People just respect them, and understand they’re so genuine, and good people, and want to be around them. They’re amazing guys.”
Donnellan said Kenilvort, Pribble and Granucci were all leaders on their teams at Drake, which has carried on throughout their careers.
“They understand what basketball is about,” Donnellan said. “They’re not in it just for the winning, they’re in it because they want to bond with teammates, and compete against great competition.
“They all had a fire, for sure. None of them would ever except losing.”
Kenilvort won’t. Certainly not after last season, when the Saints missed the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament on a tiebreaker.
“I think the main thing this year is just maturity,” Kenilvort said. “Knowing when we hit lulls — like we did a few games ago — or hit adversity, we’re going to be fine. …
“It’s just keeping fate in our own hands, and not letting other people decide how long our season goes on.”
Kenilvort, a forward, is averaging 10.3 points a game this season for the Saints, who are 11-8 (5-6 GNAC) entering Saturday’s home game against Alaska-Fairbanks.
Like Granucci, what Pribble prizes most about Kenilvort is his toughness, effort and energy.
Kenilvort’s leadership, which he learned at Drake, has carried over, too.
“His past has prepared him so well for his role right now,” Pribble said.
Kenilvort said his coaches know what to expect out of him, based on shared backgrounds. He said his long history with Pribble and Granucci motivates him to play his best.
And Kenilvort, and the rest of SMU’s senior class, want to end on a high note.
“We’re a really close group,” Kenilvort said. “Every game means a lot to us. … We’re having a great season, and it’s a lot of fun.”