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Chesterfield basketball player works to leap out of superstar dad's shadow

Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 23:38:41-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- R.J. Spelsberg and his staff are building something of a basketball powerhouse in Chesterfield County. Before this abbreviated season, the Monacan Chiefs made the state tournament in four of the past six years winning the Class 4 state title in 2016. His current roster is trending in the same direction.

“These guys have a lot of potential and if they continue to grow and work together and do what we're trying to do and believe in each other, then I think they could be special and make a run. Maybe not this year but in the future,” Spelsberg said.

One of those players is a long, slender junior with a pretty good jump shot.

Kendrick Warren Jr..jpg

"Towards the end of his freshman year, I remember they told us [about him],” senior Sam Wittenbraker recalled. “You could start to see it, especially when he was on JV. He would have games where he had two or three dunks and you'd be like, oh, that makes sense.”

His game and the moves might look familiar to seasoned basketball fans in the area. Then you hear the name.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kendrick Warren was one of the best basketball players in Virginia.

He averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds over his final two years at Thomas Jefferson High School in Richmond.

He went on to star at VCU where he was the Sun Belt Conference Rookie of the Year.

He left the Rams as the school's all=time leading scorer and second-leading rebounder.

“Everybody around here wanted to play like Kendrick Warren,” Spelsberg explained. “I remember all my teammates at Clover Hill, we were just in awe of Kendrick Warren.”

“I wanted it more,” the elder Warren said. “I played with more heart and determination to outwork everybody. “

Kendrick Warren Sr..jpg

“He was a monster and saying he could fly over people and everything,” his son Kendrick Junior said.

But those memories belong to a different generation.

Today's players only recently began to discover where Kendrick Junior might have gotten some of his talents.

“I started talking to Coach Spelsberg,” senior forward Jay Werts said. “He was telling me more about his dad. I started looking him up. Oh his dad was actually nice back then!“

"I think he plays just like him, honestly,” sophomore Rasheed Daniels added. “Kendrick plays just like his dad if not better because he actually has a three-point shot."

To be the son of a legend is no easy task, especially when you are following the same athletic path.

Kendrick Junior expects no favors and uses no excuses because of his lineage.

“Handles it great,” Wittenbraker said. “You'd never be able to tell he had some superstar father. Just head down, shows up every day, and comes to work. “

"To us and his teammates, he's really humble,” Spelsberg added. “He doesn't show it at all. You probably would never even know it. He never really talks about it. But there is a pressure. Even if it's only implied.“

"Every time he talks to someone, it's always Kendrick Warren's son,” Wittenbraker explained. “It's never Kendrick, it's Kendrick Warren's son. I couldn't even imagine it.”

"When people think of me, they think of all the dunking and running and scoring,” Kendrick Senior said. “He started at a late age. It's coming, but I don't want that pressure to be on him to do what I did when I played.”

“We're two different people,” added Kendrick Junior. “I'm not the same as him. I keep trying to do my best every night.”

The two still compete against each other from time to time. The results vary depending on who is telling the story.

“I try to take it easy on him,” Kendrick Senior said. “I don't want to discourage him from not playing anymore. (so you still beat him?) Yeah, I beat up on him.”

“He says he can beat me one on one” Kendrick Junior said. “(Can he?) Nah, not anymore!”

Kendrick Junior said he was proud of his father and his accomplishments on the court.

“Not everybody can say they have a dad like that or say their dad was one of the best players to come out of Virginia," he said. "I'm really looking forward to seeing how I grow into my future. Hopefully, I'll be as good as him.”

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