How Louisiana basketball guard Kentrell Garnett went from walk-on to scholarship player

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Kentrell Garnett had options coming out of Catholic High in Baton Rouge, including a dozen junior college offers and one from NCAA Division II-member Dallas Baptist.

Instead of a free ride, however, Garnett walked on with the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns basketball program. He wanted to play D-I ball. The lack of a scholarship wasn’t stopping him.

Risk was rewarded last week, when UL coach Bob Marlin put the sophomore combo guard on scholarship. The Cajuns had one available after guard Antwann Jones, who had prior stops at Creighton and Memphis, left between semesters.

“I’m not sure if I expected it to happen as soon as it did,” Garnett said, “but I always bet on myself.

“I knew what type player I would be, and so I decided to take a chance and come here as a walk-on, just work hard and eventually play.”

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The Ragin’ Cajuns weren’t the only Division I program in Louisiana wanting Garnett to walk on. But something felt right about UL.

After much contemplation, and leaning on his mom and sister and trainer, Garnett didn’t finalize plans until shortly before enrolling late in the summer of 2020.

Kentrell Garnett (22) as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns take on McNeese in mens basktball at the Cajundome. Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.

“It was a hard decision, and well-thought-out,” he said.

The difference-maker?

“I liked the coaching staff,” Garnett said, “and I always wanted to come here out of high school.

“So when they offered me the opportunity, and they said all I had to do was work hard to get the opportunity to play, that was the decision I made.”

Garnett averaged 1.9 points playing 7.6 minutes per game over 24 games as a freshman.  As the season progressed, playing time increased.

By early February that season, he was playing double-digit minutes. Later that month, Garnett logged a season-high 23 minutes against UL Monroe, and in a rematch with ULM he scored a season-high eight points.

This season, Garnett is averaging 7.4 points, fourth among UL scorers, and 24.6 minutes, which ranks third.

With Brayan Au recovering from two surgeries on the same knee, Garnett started the season’s first nine games in the backcourt, mostly playing next to St. John’s transfer Greg Williams Jr.

When point guard Trajan Wesley was well enough to handle bigger minutes and start again following rehab from a foot injury that cost him all of last season and a concussion that cost him three weeks of preseason practice, Garnett returned to the bench.

But he has remained integral to the Cajuns’ regular rotation, when not dealing with COVID-19 issues, including Thursday's seven-point effort in UL's 77-70 loss to South Alabama.

Garnett is also the top 3-point shooter by percentage (48.3%) among those with more than one attempt for UL (8-8, 3-3 Sun Belt), which plays Troy (13-5, 4-1) on Saturday (7 p.m., ESPN+) at the Cajundome.

“We saw signs of that last year,” UL basketball operations director Mike Murphy said. “We saw what he could do from the 3-point line.”

Garnett made 34.5% (10-of-29) from 3-point range in 2020-21.

But that’s not what spurred Garnett's scholarship.

“Coach Marlin,” Garnett said, “said it had nothing to do with me making shots, or anything on the court – but off the court, in the classroom, and being a good teammate.

“It was a big deal for me. … I’m happy. Thank God for it.”