Kayla Pedersen, shown here against Texas A&M in the 2011 Final Four, was the No. 7 overall selection in the 2011 WNBA draft by the Tulsa Shock. Pedersen was coached by Kenny Drake since she was in high school. (The Daily News/Amelio Rodriguez)
Kayla Pedersen, shown here against Texas A&M in the 2011 Final Four, was the No. 7 overall selection in the 2011 WNBA draft by the Tulsa Shock. Pedersen was coached by Kenny Drake since she was in high school. (The Daily News/Amelio Rodriguez)

Archived Story

Drake: No longer in the shadows

Published 8:35pm Monday, June 27, 2011

It can be hard being a younger sibling to a successful person, whether it’s an athlete, an actor, a businessman or any other profession.

When you are trying to be you and everyone else expects you to be like your sibling, it can create a lot of pressure on you.

Imagine, for example, Billy Ripken. Ripken played Major League Baseball for 12 years, and one would have to be a pretty good baseball player to play in “the show” for 12 seasons, but Billy is best known for being the younger brother of Hall of Famer, and arguably the greatest shortstop to ever play the game, Cal Ripken Jr.

Another example would be Gerald Wilkins. Wilkins played 13 seasons in the NBA and had a successful career averaging 13.0 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, but he is best known for being the brother of NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins, also known as “The Human Highlight Film.”

No matter how good Billy or Gerald played their respective sports; they were never going to be as good as their hall of fame brothers.

Talk about pressure.

Kenny Drake, a 1991 graduate of Brandywine High School, spent many years of his life with that same type of pressure — maybe not quite at that level, but the same pressures nonetheless.

Kenny is the younger brother of the late Leonard Drake, and anyone who grows up playing basketball at Brandywine High School hears all about how great of a basketball player Leonard was.

Leonard was the best basketball player to ever wear a Bobcats jersey and all the honors and trophies in the trophy case just outside the gym prove it. Leonard went on to play at Central Michigan University, where he would join the Chippewa Hall of Fame and have his jersey hanging in the rafters.

No pressure.

Not only are the shoes to fill big if you want to be great in basketball at Brandywine, but when your last name is Drake, the shoes just got a little bit bigger.

For those who went to school with Kenny, they know how good of a basketball player he was. They saw it all the time. Whether it was a pickup game at the park, or just a game among friends in the gym, no one could come close to the talents of Kenny Drake. When Kenny would put on the Bobcats uniform everyone knew that he was the best player on the floor, but something was holding him back, keeping him from being that same dominant player every night that we all knew from around the courts.

It was the pressure of being Leonard Drake’s little brother. People expected him to be Leonard, but he just wanted to be Kenny. Not that he didn’t love his older brother, and admire to be like him, he just wanted to be the best player he could be and not have to be like his elder.

Kenny would have those same pressures in college as he also ended up at Central Michigan University after a stint at Odessa Junior College in Texas. Not only did he play at Central, where his brother’s jersey hung in the rafters, but also Leonard paced the sidelines as the coach of the Chippewas.

So after several years of competitive basketball, and years of being under the pressure of trying to be as good as his older brother, Kenny has finally stepped out of the shadow and has started to make a name for himself in the basketball world.

After college, Kenny started working with kids trying to help them to become better basketball players. While doing this, he was convinced to move to Phoenix, Ariz. to help run a youth basketball league for the Phoenix Suns.

While working for the Suns, Kenny met former NBA player Eddie Johnson and started working camps with him and helping to coach youth leagues and camps for all different age groups.

The father of one of the kids, Gary Pedersen, called Johnson and asked him if he could take the time to work with his daughter Kayla on her game. Johnson said that he didn’t really have the time to do it, but that he highly recommended Kenny and said that they should call him and they would be happy they did.

When Kenny began working with Kayla she was a 6-foot-2 freshman who had pretty good defensive skills but needed some work on the offensive side of the ball. The two worked together throughout her high school years as Kenny helped her to make herself a better-rounded basketball player, capable of playing any position on the floor.

“I gave her stuff to do and she was like a robot. She never complained at any of the workouts, and we worked hard, she would listen, she would take things home and work on it,” Kenny said. “I would say from spring of her freshman year to fall of her sophomore year she went from a good high school player to a Division 1 caliber player.”

Kenny put together a profile for Kayla and sent it out to all the major women’s college basketball programs around the country and during her sophomore season she was already being touted as one of the best players in the country. By the end of her senior season she had already inked a National Letter of Intent to attend Stanford University on a basketball scholarship.

“Kenny taught me to not put myself in a box. He taught me guard and post skill sets so that I could be used anywhere on the floor and in any situation. This has helped my versatility and increased my confidence to compete with the best,” replied Kayla when asked about one of the most important things she has learned from Kenny.

While at Stanford, Kayla helped lead the Cardinal to four straight Final Fours including two appearances in the championship game. Each of the four seasons the Cardinal would lose to the eventual champion (Tennessee, Connecticut, Connecticut and Texas A&M).

Not only did the hard work the two of them put in pay off with the scholarship to Stanford, but also on April 11 Kayla was chosen with No. 7 overall selection in the WNBA draft by the Tulsa Shock.

“She can be a WNBA All Star, there is no doubt in my mind,” said Kenny.

When asked about the role that Kenny helped play in her being drafted into the WNBA, Kayla replied, “He gave me the individual attention that I needed to get to the next level. He spent countless hours with me in the gym and in watching game film. Along with my family and a few coaches, he is the reason I am where I am today.”

While Leonard Drake is still the man, and may always be, when it comes to Brandywine High School basketball, his brother Kenny is no longer in his shadows.

Kenny has created his own name in the basketball world, and while he may have a few regrets from his playing days, he isn’t letting those stop him from achieving his goals in life.

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