Each day, Kentan Facey slips on a ring before he heads to class at UConn. It’s not elaborate, like a championship ring, but the one his father was going to use on his wedding day.
“He was supposed to get married that December, and he passed away in April [of 2015],” Facey said. “So I take his wedding ring out and wear it every day.”
Kenneth Facey died suddenly from heart disease just after his son finished his sophomore season at UConn. The family had never been able to work things out so that Kenneth could travel from Jamaica to the U.S. to watch his son play in Huskies’ blue and white, nor did he know much about the sport his son was playing. But he knew Kentan was doing well in school, and finding his way on a journey that is coming to an end, as his senior season is about to begin.
“He would definitely be proud,” Kentan said. “Everything I did back home, back here, even if he didn’t fully understand what was happening — my aunts would tell me how much he was talking about me. He would be happy to see me get this far.”
He did get to watch his son appear on Television Jamaica to explain basketball back home, which is something Kentan plans to explore as a career in putting his communications degree to use.
Facey grew up on the family farm and left Jamaica as a teenager, just having begun playing the game. After playing high school ball in New York, where he was the Gatorade player of the year at Long Island Lutheran, he committed to UConn in August 2012. It all began with the NCAA looking into his eligibility, because he had technically graduated from high school in Jamaica at age 16. There was a chance he would have to sit a year, and lose up to two year’s eligibility. On the eve of the season, Facey was cleared to play and he made an important contribution to the Huskies national championship team in 2013-14.
Along the way, the older players, Shabazz Napier, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander, Ryan Boatright, offered support, and knowledge. He now ,sees the chance to pay it forward since he is on a team with five freshmen, two sophomores.
“I just want to draw from all the experiences I’ve had over three years and try to impart some of those things on the freshmen,” Facey said. “The seniors ahead of me, they made sure I had a good time, they put in all the hard work, showed us the right way, how to win a national championship.
“Shabazz … one thing ‘Bazz was definitely high on, you’ve got to take care of your body, eating right, going to see [athletic trainer] James Doran, rehabbing injuries, and all that. The first couple of practices, we were just trying to get through the practices and go home, and he was like, ‘you can’t do that, your body is going to let you down eventually,’ ” Facey said. “… Boat was just a hard worker, that tough player, once you get on the floor with him he was going to compete every day and I saw that in him and tried to be like him. Tyler, even though he wasn’t playing, he didn’t have a bad attitude. He tried to teach us what he learned. He’s come back a few times since he graduated and showed me some things.”
Facey played in 23 games as a freshman. As a sophomore he played in 31, with 22 starts, averaging 4.4 points and 5.2 rebounds in 21.5 minutes. Last season, he played in 35 games, averaging 3.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 12.7 minutes.
“He’s grown strength-wise,” said Amida Brimah, who came in with Facey as a freshman. “He’s gotten really mature. On the court, he’s learned to play within the system and accept his role. He’s a lot more confident in his game.”
Last season, though, was the first Facey had to play knowing his father was not following along. “Every time I think about it, it’s hard,” Kentan said. “Every day, you wake up and you think, ‘Man, that really happened.’ It was so sudden. I’m still getting used to it.”
His coaches and teammates could see Facey struggle, fight through the grief and grow.
“He had some moments where he got very depressed,” Ollie said. “His dad meant a lot to him, and he didn’t really get a chance since he’s been over here to spend a lot of time with his dad, and to go back there and see your dad die, it’s a tough, tough situation. But I think he learned as a young man to get through that depression and he’s in a better state than he’s every been in right now, and I just want him to be very successful this senior year, take that pain and get a reward for it.
“Hopefully he gets some knowledge from it, a deep passion that says, ‘All right, I am going to live for his legacy and continue his legacy because he was a great man.’ ”
After last season, Facey stayed at UConn for most of the summer and put his mind to building his body. At 6-10, he is now above 230 pounds; the skinny freshman has grown into an imposing senior.
“I’m very proud of him,” Ollie said. “The extra weight is going to allow him to bang a little bit more, absorb contact and play through contact.”
Facey said he has just about completed the requirements of his major, and is finishing up electives. He plans to graduate in May.
“It takes a lot of commitment,” he said. “Go to class, take school work seriously. Basketball is something, if you love it, you’re going to show up, work hard, bring that energy, that’s going to take care of itself. You just have to focus on what you have to do in the classroom and realize you have a great opportunity to go to school for free and get a great education.
“What I’m going to take away, through good times and bad times, you can’t give up, you have to keep working hard because you never know when things are going to turn around.”
Source: Hartford Courant