University of Washington

Shawn Kemp Jr. off to strong start for Huskies

The Washington Huskies men’s basketball team will be back at KeyArena at 5 p.m. Sunday for a game against Pacific (California), which means another opportunity for a player named Kemp to dunk on those rims the way his father once did.

Shawn Kemp Jr., son of the former Seattle SuperSonics star, has started his senior season in encouraging fashion.

During UW’s 63-48 victory over Seattle University on Friday night, Kemp, a 6-foot-9 forward, scored 12 points, grabbed seven rebounds and rekindled memories of dad with four emphatic slam dunks.

And in the Huskies’ season-opening win over South Carolina State, Kemp led all scorers with 17 points on 8-for-13 shooting in 21 minutes.

His coach, Lorenzo Romar, credits Kemp’s emergence to newfound physical strength gained through a taxing offseason. So does Kemp.

“Physically, my body, I feel stronger out there,” he said. “It almost feels easier to me.”

Last year, Kemp was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a condition that affects the thyroid. It’s a lifelong illness, but its symptoms can be effectively limited with proper treatment.

Doctors eventually figured out how best to manage it, but it took some time for Kemp to regain his endurance, so potential for growth in 2013-14 was limited. He played in every game, but averaged only 4.4 points and 15.4 minutes per game.

Now a starting forward, Kemp says he no longer feels any effects from the illness. As a result, fourth-year junior guard Andrew Andrews said, “he’s a completely different player.”

“Last year and the year before and the year before that, even if he was healthy, he wasn’t this strong,” Romar said. “Now he is strong. He’s improved his body, and he’s playing with as much confidence as he’s ever played with.”

The Huskies are playing this game at KeyArena as part of the Marv Harshman Classic, a one-day basketball doubleheader named after the legendary coach who worked at Washington, Washington State and Pacific Lutheran. Harshman died in April 2013 at age 95.

Seattle University, which is co-hosting the event with Basketball Travelers, hosts Montana at 7:30 p.m. in the nightcap.