For Franck Kepnang, it has been a winding journey toward becoming one of the nation’s top-ranked centers. It started in Cameroon, where he actually started off playing competitive tennis, dabbling in karate and strength trained for two years before he really played a competitive basketball game. He came over to play basketball at MacDuffie (MA), before transferring to Westtown (PA), which has produced prospects such as Mohamed Bamba and Cameron Reddish in recent years. He also played in the EYBL for the PSA Cardinals, proving to be one of the top rim protection specialists during the 2019 season.
With a mind towards his future coupled with his intense inherent academic curiosity, Kepnang has decided to reclassify to immediately join the college of his choice. The plan is to study computer science and play basketball at the University of Oregon. In Franck Kepnang, the Ducks get someone with true center size, who can add quite a bit of strength and alter a large quantity of shots. In recent years under coach Dana Altman, Oregon has had a number of their top shot blockers in program history come through the program, such as Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher, Kenny Wooten, and Bol Bol.
N’Faly Dante from Mali is currently on the roster, and Kepnang will redshirt and give him a tremendous scout team opponent in practice during the 2020-21 season. Energy is the name of the game for Kepnang, as he also has the ability to finish above the rim and be a factor on the glass. He has a mind for technology, with an ability to fix computers and an interest in working with drones. In what was definitely a unique recruiting process, Oregon will be getting a prospect with a college-ready body and mind, who should hit the ground running as soon as he gets to campus.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present Oregon-bound big man Franck Kepnang, originally from Yaounde, Cameroon:
Pro Insight: What were the most important factors in your college decision?
Franck Kepnang: School was very important to me. I know that one day the ball will stop bouncing. I needed to go to a school that would really support me. I was looking for school that would really help me strive in the classroom.
PI: Was it challenging to build relationships with programs via Zoom meetings during this ongoing Coronavirus pandemic? Did you get used to it?
FK: Definitely, during this period of time, I had a lot of Zoom meetings with different coaches and coaching staffs. For me, it was very important that I try my best to connect with each staff and feel like I get to know them. My concern had been that I would go to a place, where I really didn’t get to know the staff and the coaches individually before I arrived. I wanted to go to a place where I know the coaches and have that relationship because I have talked with them many times. I really think that those relationships are important when trying to win a National Championship. We have to go in with the same mentality and goals in mind. To be able to communicate smoothly will help us move quickly.
PI: Was that with the staffs in general or the head coaches?
FK: I wanted it with the staff, but having a relationship with the head coach in particular because, ultimately, they’re the ones making the decisions on the court. I was really looking for a relationship with the head coach more.
PI: Who did you turn to for guidance during the process? What advice did they recommend to you?
FK: During the whole process, Mark Carter was really the one by my side. He was just consistently helpful in providing me with information and making sure that I had communication with staffs. He tried to make sure that I would be supported by the colleges, both on and off the court. We were looking for a place that I would strive on and off the court. We wanted to find a place that we could develop, win and learn at.
PI: Without further adieu, where will you be attending college?
FK: I have decided to commit to the University of Oregon.
FK: Thank you! Thank you.
PI: What set Oregon apart? What made them different than the rest of your options?
FK: With Oregon, they play my style of basketball. They play an NBA style, with spreading the floor and allowing you to be versatile. Also, in terms of the facilities, I know that I won’t ever have to worry about getting injured or recovering. For anyone that plays basketball, that’s always been the biggest concern. I know that if anything happens, I’ll be taken care of because they have world-class facilities. In terms of the education component, I would like to study computer science. In particular, I would like to study robotic engineering. They’ve recently improved that facility towards that major. For me, with computers, I’m like a little kid in a candy store. I love all of the technology that they have.
PI: What was their most consistent message to you throughout the recruiting process? What did they try to convey?
FK: They kept saying that they like my energy as a big. They loved the energy that I try to bring to the court every time I step onto it. They felt that I’m unique. That I’m special and that’s what they’re looking for. They like that I bring energy on both ends of the court. Sometimes, guys will only bring it on the part of the court that they’re strong at. They liked my versatility and that I could play on different areas of the court. They liked that I’ve adapted, but also that they would like to expand my game. They also made it clear that it would depend on my work ethic and how hard I wanted to push myself to progress and develop. They emphasized that they’ll be there by my side to strive to get better.
PI: Was their track record of development one of the major factors in why you chose them?
FK: Yes, definitely, in terms of players with my size and my body structure, a lot of them they’ve had have made it to the NBA. My goal is to become the best player that I can be and then to hopefully make it to the NBA. If I am fortunate enough to make the NBA, my goal is not just to make it there, but to stay and ultimately thrive in the NBA. At Oregon, I know they play a lot of NBA style basketball. With the terminology that they use, I know that I will be prepared, if I am fortunate enough to make the NBA.
PI: What was Coach Altman’s reaction when you told him?
FK: Oh, he was beyond happy. He kept using the phrase that I made him the happiest man in America. The coaching staff, particularly Coach Mike (Mennenga) was jumping around. He just kept bouncing up and down. It showed me that they genuinely were excited to have me join the Ducks program.
PI: You’ll be flying out tomorrow and redshirting. What has Coach Altman recommended that you work on this year in preparation for next season?