May 21, 2009 / Sports

Injuries behind him, Francis finds a home at LIU

The Brooklyn Paper
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Kyle Francis entered Thomas Jefferson four years ago a high profile prospect, expecting lead the Orange Wave alongside Keith Spellman. It didn’t quite work out as planned – ACL tears to each knee robbed the senior forward of his first two seasons.

In the end, however, he accomplished his top goal – he qualified academically for college and gained a Division I scholarship.

On Friday, Francis verbally committed to nearby Long Island University of the Northeast Conference. He will visit the Brooklyn school Monday with his mom, Ann Francis, and said he expects to sign a National Letter of Intent, three days before the end of the early signing period.

“I’m really glad how things worked out,” he said. “It’s a blessing.”

The 6-foot-8 rail-thin left-handed Francis, 17, just started to hit his groove this spring after serving as a rebounder/defender for much of his two seasons at Jefferson. He averaged four points and five rebounds per game, helping the Orange Wave reach the PSAL Class AA semifinals.

The injuries, coach Lawrence Pollard said, set him back. Instead of working on his game, Francis spent his first two years rehabbing.

The initial time he came down awkward on the layup line the first game of his freshman season. Francis didn’t hear a pop and there wasn’t much pain; he figured it was a sprain. He had torn his left ACL. The next season, following a dunk the first practice of the year, Francis felt the same pain in the other knee; he knew the result.

“Why did I dunk?” he thought to himself that night in the hospital. “Why did I dunk?”

Francis, a Crown Heights native, was down, but not for long. He received plenty of phone calls from teammates that night. Ann Francis, his mother, told him it was time to put up or shut up, to keep working hard to get back. “You’re not dead; everything will be all right,” she advised him.

His junior year was all about getting healthy, mentally and physically. As a senior, he finally didn’t have to worry about either knee much, even though he still wore a brace on his right one.

“He has a lot of upside,” Pollard, the Jefferson coach, said. “He can definitely compete (at LIU).”

Talent evaluator Tom Konchalski agrees. While he thinks Francis needs to gain a significant amount of muscle, he likes the big man’s ability to run the court, catch and score.

“His greatest asset is his attitude; he’s willing to listen and work,” Konchalski said. “He’s a kid Jim Ferry will really enjoy coaching.”

Francis is grateful for the opportunity. He didn’t envision himself as a Division I player – “to tell you the truth, I didn’t think it would happen” – as an underclassman, or even the winter before last.

Then LIU came along, showing significant interest in the agile big man. He developed an immediate rapport with assistant Lenny Pitt. “They really wanted me,” said Francis, who will major in either philosophy or physical education. He liked the Downtown Brooklyn campus and the recently built Wellness Center, where he will play his home games.

“I’m looking forward to helping the team whichever way I can,” he said. “I’m excited. I feel like I accomplished something.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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