Kerry Kittles – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
St. Augustine High School/Villanova University/NBA
No matter what the level of competition, Kerry Kittles always seemed to make his point. In high school at St. Augustine, he averaged 22.5 points per game as a senior. In college at Villanova in Philadelphia, he finished his four-year career with a school-record 2,243 points in his four seasons. Then in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets, he averaged 16.4 points per game as a rookie, followed by 18.2 points per game as a second-year player before knee injuries began to slow his game.
While Kittles made his mark in the record books with his scoring, he also made his mark on the court by winning.
The 6-6 shooting guard led St. Aug to a 66-5 record in his final two seasons while earning first-team all-metro and all-state honors for coach Bernard Griffith. As a junior, Kittles led the Purple Knights to the 1991 state championship game before falling to Cohen, 64-63. During his senior season, the lean scoring machine left no doubt about which team was the best in the state as St. Aug posted a 32-3 record and cruised to a 67-50 victory over John Ehret in the 1992 Class 5A state championship game.
Kittles singled out Griffith as a key figure in his successes on and off the court. “Coach Griffith’s biggest thing was discipline at a school known for its discipline,” Kittles said. “He made you pay attention to details, like taking care of your body, being in shape and keeping up with conditioning. He infused the fundamentals in all of us. He helped us in every aspect of our life.”
His high school efforts made him a prize recruit for Villanova where he would set 15 school records. As a junior in 1995, he led the Wildcats to their first-ever Big East Tournament Championship, earning Most Outstanding Player honors to cap a year in which he had been a second-team All-American and the Big East Player of the Year. As a senior in 1996, Kittles again led Villanova to the NCAA Tournament and he was named a first-team All-American.
“I picked Villanova because it fit all of my criteria,” he said of his decision to play out-of-state. “It was a smaller institution; it was a Catholic school; its basketball games were on television and I had the opportunity to play. But the biggest factor was its graduation rate.”
After earning his degree in business from Villanova, Kittles was selected No. 8 overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Nets. The wiry Kittles quickly established himself as an offensive weapon for the Nets, burying a team-record 158 three-pointers. His statistics all improved during his second year, but more importantly, his team also improved as New Jersey made the playoffs for the first time since 1994. In 2001-02, he started every game in the backcourt alongside Jason Kidd, helping New Jersey to the NBA Finals, where they fell to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nets returned to the finals the following year, but again fell, this time to the San Antonio Spurs.
“Even in the pros, basketball is still basketball,” he said. “It’s just more games. Most of us had already played against a lot of NBA guys.”
Unfortunately, knee injuries began to slow down the high-scoring shooter, eventually sending him into retirement following the 2004-05 season. For his pro career, Kittles scored 7,165 points, for an average of 14.1 points per game.
As of his 2014 Hall of Fame induction, he lived in New Jersey where he tended to his five children. His parents Acosta and Mary Kittles still lived in the Crescent City.
Story submitted by Bill Bumgarner of the Greater New Orleans Sports Selection Committee.