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25 January 2012

Kadji proves his worth after long journey

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Kenny Kadji deflects numerous Rutgers players. Ken Rubi//The Miami Hurricane

With conference play in full swing and players establishing their roles on the Hurricane squad, Kenny Kadji has consistently proven to coach Jim Larranaga that he can be one of Miami’s most productive and dependable weapons.

Kadji, the 6-foot-11-inch forward/center who sat out last season after transferring from Florida, is currently second on the team with 12.4 points per game and leads the team with 101 total rebounds and 31 blocks.

Kadji believes Larranaga has put him in the best position to display his skill set.

“I can go inside and play, I can come out, catch and shoot, and I’m okay putting the ball on the ground,” Kadji said. “I think I’m a pretty all-around player.”

Since frontcourt mate Reggie Johnson returned to the lineup after surgery on his right knee, Kadji has improved his play dramatically. He’s scored in double figures in eight of his nine games playing alongside Johnson.

“We believe Kenny’s benefited the most from Reggie being back,” Larranaga said. “Now he gets to play on the perimeter where he feels most comfortable, but he also can go inside and not get double-teamed. He’s also being guarded by the second biggest guy and not the biggest guy.”

Kadji had a unique journey to get to Coral Gables.

Born in Douala, Cameroon, he moved to France at age 14 and then to the United States at 16. He played high school basketball at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., before enrolling at the University of Florida.

Kadji first started playing basketball when he was 10 years old in Cameroon with his cousin, Whale.

While soccer is the sport of choice in Cameroon, Kadji said all of his relatives play basketball because of the height that runs in their family.

“It was great growing up in Cameroon. You could just go out, spend time at your neighbor’s house,” he said. “Miami is probably three times bigger than the city I was living in.”

Kadji had no idea he had any potential in basketball until his days in France playing at the same boarding school as the NBA’s Mickael Pietrus and Boris Diaw.

Coming out of high school, he was heavily recruited and chose Florida after Billy Donovan had just won back-to-back national championships, but after a sophomore season that was cut short due to a herniated disc, Kadji looked to transfer.

He decided to take his talents to Coral Gables.

“I just wanted a new start,” he said. “Miami was recruiting me out of high school. It was in-state and my parents didn’t want me to go out of state. I thought we could have a great team.”

Having now played under Larranaga, Donovan and Frank Haith in his college career, Kadji insists Larranaga is the best coach of the three.

“He’s the best because he takes every player differently,” Kadji said. “Coach L will look at your character, how you respond to things, and adjust. I think that’s the best way you can do it.”

Kadji is currently listed as a junior and may apply for a sixth year of eligibility during his senior year in similar fashion to Adrian Thomas two years ago.