Oak Forest’s Jayson Kent commits to Bradley

After picking up several offers over the past couple of months, Jayson Kent committed to Bradley Thursday morning.

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Oak Forest’s Jayson Kent (25) drives the baseline toward the basket.

Oak Forest’s Jayson Kent (25) drives the baseline toward the basket.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

There has been nothing that has slowed down the rapid rise of Oak Forest’s Jayson Kent.

The long, smooth 6-6 senior was a late-blooming prospect who put together a fantastic final season, led his team to unchartered recent success and became a hot commodity late in the recruiting process.

After picking up several offers over the past couple of months, Kent committed to Bradley Thursday morning.

A big part of landing Kent, a fast-rising scoring wing, was that Bradley was able to get the senior on campus before the coronavirus shutdown began. Kent visited Bradley and took in a couple of games on a pair of unofficial visits during the season.

Those visits to Bradley, along with a budding relationship with the coaching staff, was all that it took for Kent to end his recruitment on Thursday.

“Being able to get on campus and visit Bradley was important, because I was able to meet the Athletic Director, the academic advisors, see a game and just really feel welcomed by everyone there,” says Kent of his February visits to the Peoria campus. “I also felt as if they really, really wanted me.”

Kent, who averaged 17.8 points points and 5.5 rebounds for a team that finished 28-4, was able to build a connection with head coach Brian Wardle and his staff.

“I have a strong relationship with the head coach and the assistants,” says Kent. “That went a long way.”

The promising Kent grew a couple of inches and added to his game over the past year, but the recruitment was stagnant heading into the season. Oak Forest coach Matt Manzke, though, saw the belief Kent had in himself.

“It’s a great story as Jayson never wavered,” says Manzke. “He said he was going to play the season out. He was going to stick with it and prove himself. He wanted to put together a great individual season and have team success. He said if that happened people would take notice. It’s cool to see that process play out.”

Kent was a focal point of the resurgent Oak Forest basketball program. He put up numbers and was a versatile scoring threat on the perimeter. The impact Kent had on the Oak Forest program included more than just the 1,000-plus career points he finished with.

“You can’t underestimate his presence,” Manzke points out. “But he really showed what work ethic really is about. He set that standard for how hard you have to work. That’s the biggest thing he brought to our program.”

Kent helped his team capture the attention of the community, leading the Bengals to their first conference and regional championship since 1987.

“I will never forget my senior year,” says Kent. “You never really get over your last loss, but to cap off my senior year by committing to Bradley is an amazing feeling.”

Now he heads to a program that reached the NCAA Tournament in 2019 and was headed for another appearance this past March before the NCAA canceled the tournament.

“It’s a surreal moment,” says Kent. “God has given me the opportunity to go to college and to do what I love to do –– play basketball. My goal there is to help get Bradley to the NCAA Tournament again.”

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