As coach Pep Stanciel alluded to Friday, it can be a common cliché to call a player a “dog” — a nod to their relentlessness on the court.
But when used to describe new VCU recruit Nick Kern, it’s not just a cliché, Stanciel believes.
“He just has a high motor, energy guy, that’s looking to make plays on both sides. Like he just doesn’t stop,” said Stanciel, who worked with Kern this summer, and who is the founder of GoL1ve, a youth basketball organization and apparel company based in Columbia, Mo.
Not only does Kern have the drive, but the skill to match it, too, Stanciel said.
Kern’s competitiveness, and his love for basketball, are qualities VCU coach Mike Rhoades described as “exactly what we need in our program. That’s what we want.”
The Rams offered the 6-6 guard from St. Louis in August, pursued him more fiercely than any other school and, on Wednesday — the first day of the early signing period — VCU landed Kern and his National Letter of Intent, the second piece of the program’s 2021 recruiting class.
“He’s an example of a definite combo guard,” Rhoades said of Kern. “He can really push it in transition, and make plays off the dribble. And he can shoot the basketball.”
Kern has a three-star composite rating from 247Sports. The site’s composite state rankings place him seventh in the Class of 2021 in Missouri. He joins 6-9 forward Jalen DeLoach in VCU’s 2021 class, taking spots set to be left by current seniors Corey Douglas and Levi Stockard III.
Though Kern displays the love for hoops that Rhoades has observed, he wasn’t always consistent with the sport. It wasn’t until his freshman year at Vashon High School that he began to take basketball more seriously.
“And then I realized, ‘Yeah, it’s my time to shine. I can really do this,’” Kern said.
Vashon (St. Louis) is one of Missouri’s elite programs. It has won 14 total state titles, and in 2019, Kern’s sophomore season, won a third title in four years. Vashon is also Stockard’s alma mater. Stockard transferred to VCU from Kansas State in May.
Kern dressed for the varsity team as a freshman at Vashon, but played sparingly. He became a starter the second half of his sophomore year, and was a full-time starter as a junior in 2019-20.
The Wolverines (24-5) advanced to the state semifinals, before the rest of the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After averaging 12.1 points and 5.6 rebounds, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kern was a Class 4 all-state pick.
Kern planned to play AAU ball with Brad Beal Elite as part of the Nike EYBL this offseason, before the season was canceled due to the pandemic. So he wound up working with Stanciel and playing a few games for one of his Team GoL1ve squads in the RecruitLook Hoops League.
As VCU came into the picture this summer, Kern felt the school was a good fit, and assistant coach J.D. Byers and the rest of the Rams’ staff staged a vigorous pursuit.
“I felt like the school fit my game ... Like 100% fit my game,” Kern said. “And coach J.D. Byers was recruiting me the hardest out of every coach, at every school.”
It also didn’t hurt that Stockard was at VCU already. He and Kern have developed a relationship — Kern used to watch Stockard’s games in high school.
Kern considers his biggest strength right now to be his ability to finish at the rim. He didn’t attempt many 3-pointers as a junior, but said he’s been working on his shot, too.
One of the things that’s stood out to Stanciel about Kern is simply his impact on winning — making winning plays, whether it’s a tip-in, a key rebound or a vital steal.
When he arrives at VCU next year, Rhoades, Byers and Co., will hope to see a lot of that.
“A lot of things with Nick’s game, man, I can’t even lie, it’s natural,” Stanciel said. “It’s just his will to want to play in a generation where a lot of these kids are skilled, but they’re kind of laid back.
“He’s not laid back.”