Kenny Gregory is from Columbus, Ohio. This is notable because he is the only player that I can recall being recruited by Roy Williams from a location east of the Mississippi River. The rumors of a "gentleman’s agreement" between Williams and his mentor, North Carolina head coach Dean Smith, to stay out of each other’s way while recruiting were prevalent in the 1990’s, and if they are true, Roy Williams deemed Kenny Gregory an important enough priority to break that promise.
Gregory was always billed as an athletic freak and anyone that saw him dunk a basketball can attest to that. He had one of, if not the highest vertical leap at Kansas at the time (ever? Wiggins?) and was involved in some highlight reel plays. Thus, Gregory had a great career field goal percentage while at KU- 53%. And when you only figure his two-point shooting- 57%- you get to understand Gregory better. The man was not a shooting artist. He was a get to the rim and finish kind of player. But, opponents weren’t scared to foul Kenny as he glided through the lane or surged forward to dunk the ball because Gregory’s weakness was always his free throw shooting.
He attempted 347 free throws in his four seasons at Kansas but only converted them at a 43% clip. If he would’ve even shot at a mediocre 60% from the line over the course of his career, Gregory would have added 56 points to his career total of 1555, and Kansas would have no doubt won a few extra games between 1997 and 2001.
But for that one weakness, Kenny Gregory was a pretty good player. His scoring number steadily increased each season at Kansas (7.1 PPG to 11.3 PPG to 12.8 PPG to 15.6 PPG) and his rebounding increased sharply between his junior and senior seasons (from 4.4 RPG to 7.1 RPG). On a per forty minutes basis, Gregory averages nearly 19.5 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game over his career. Pretty good.
Gregory was not drafted after his senior season despite putting up the best numbers of his career. It turns out that shooting is pretty important in the NBA. But according to sources, Gregory scored very well in pre-draft camps, achieving the highest numbers in the history of the event in no step vertical leap (40 inches) and max vertical leap (46 inches). He initially had a go of it in the NBA Developmental League with the Greenville Groove and in the USBL with the Dodge City Legend, but Gregory couldn’t get noticed by an NBA club. Instead, the 6’6" guard opted for a career in Europe.
Gregory played nine seasons in Europe for a host of clubs in a variety of countries. He played for the Chester Jets (England), Nuova Pallacanestro Pavia (Italy), Le Mans Sarthe and SLUC Nancy (France), Efes Pilsen (Turkey), PAOK (Greece), Union Olimpija (Slovenia), and Pamesa Valencia (Spain). Despite the reputation of some of the lesser European leagues, it’s safe to say that Gregory made the right choice. I mean, making a lot of money in Istanbul and Valencia sounds like a much better lifestyle than struggling to succeed in Dodge City, Kansas. But hey, what do I know?
For those of us regulars at Allen Fieldhouse in the late nineties, Kenny Gregory and his freakish athletic ability will always be regarded fondly.