• 68°

“Just a freshman from Port Arthur” — Kenneth Lofton Jr. creating impact in college

In his second practice as a Louisiana Tech Bulldog, former Memorial Titan Kenneth Lofton Jr. realized the game was a bit different than it was in high school.

The freshman, who was a sophomore on the 2017-18 state championship Titans team, said something happened that had not happened to him his entire basketball-playing life.

“I was running back on defense and I actually got dunked on,” he said laughing. “I was like ‘Wow.’ They still talk about it to this day. I’ve actually been able to catch my teammate twice and get a dunk.”

The freshman seems to catch more opponents off guard. Lofton has earned three Conference USA Freshman of the Week awards.

Lofton’s statistical best game of the season came against the LSU Tigers Dec. 6. The freshman recorded 17 points and 12 boards, both of which are career highs.

“I just do whatever to help my team win games,” he said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t come up with a win that game.”

Kenneth Lofton Jr. said the pace of college basketball was the biggest challenge early in his freshman year. (LA Tech Athletic Communications)

Lofton said his teammates have been great.

“They took me in and I developed a relationship with them,” he said. “They just welcomed me to the team. It was really different. I asked my dad how this was supposed to work out. I’m playing with much older people. I’m coming in as the newcomer. I just followed their lead and tried to be the best I can be. I’ve been the little brother to them.”

Lofton did not play much on the state championship team as an underclassman. The talent-stacked team was senior heavy, but he was able to earn some playoff minutes.

Memorial head coach Alden Lewis, who was an assistant during the championship run, said that time was invaluable for Lofton.

“It was good for him because the next year, he knew what it took and what it looked like,” Lewis said. “He had the recipe for success. He took the next two years and instilled it in others and continued.”

Lewis is not at all surprised Lofton has excelled at college basketball so quickly.

“I’ve watched about three or four games already,” Lewis said. “I think he is doing really well with the adjustment. He’s playing bigger than just a freshman. He looks like a junior or a senior out there. The game always came easy to him. This success that he is having is not a surprise. You could see in his junior year that he was going to be just fine.”

Lofton said he wants to develop his jump shot to be more reliable and comfortably extend his range.

“I plan on improving every year,” he said. “I want to be able to shoot the three. I want to be able to bring the ball up court sometimes.”

Lofton is no stranger to handling the ball. He was a guard until a late growth spurt landed him in the paint.

“When I played guard at Memorial, I knew how to play the post pretty good,” he said. “My dad used to show me videos of Hakeem Olajuwon. I just happened to grow. I know how to handle the ball and make plays.”

Lofton said the transition from high school to college was a little different at first, adding it does get easier.

Once you get involved and learn what to do, it slows down, he said.

“At first the speed of the game was really different,” he said. “In high school, the game is a lot slower. The pace is higher in college.”

Tech head coach Eric Konkol is also noticing Lofton’s potential and skill.

During a press conference earlier this month he said coaches knew Lofton could have a presence on the inside through passing and scoring.

“There are a number of things that make the college game so much different to high school, but he has adjusted nicely to those aspects,” Konkol said. “Those are things you find out once you get into practice and get going. I think he has a high ceiling to get better and better. He comes in with a frame that is able to hold people off and post up. I think he has added a real dimension to us that we haven’t had.”