Off Campus: Garret Kerr, son of ex-Flyer Tim, is leading Division II rebounder

The top glass cleaner in Division II, Garret Kerr averages 12.3 per game for University of Sciences.
The top glass cleaner in Division II, Garret Kerr averages 12.3 per game for University of Sciences. (SCOTT HEWITT)
Posted: February 08, 2012

Watching his son play, the father easily sees the broad-shouldered resemblance.

"Different nets, but the same concept," Tim Kerr said of watching his son operate in tight spots. "You're playing off a man, and you're anticipating what's going to happen there."

While the father was one of the great close-quarter scorers in Flyers history, the son has taken similar traits in a different direction. A freshman at the University of the Sciences, Garret Kerr is the top rebounder nationally in NCAA Division II. His 12.3 rebounds per game are fourth-best nationally in any division. Kerr also leads the Devils with 16.3 points a game.

Impressive feats, considering the Middle Township High graduate is a 6-foot-3 guard. Kerr began starting in mid-December. In the 13 games since, he has only sat out a total of three minutes. He had recorded 14 straight double-doubles going into Tuesday night's game at Washington Adventist, and has averaged 14.6 rebounds (and 4.5 offensive rebounds) since he began starting.

"He's watching his teammates - if they miss, how do they miss?" said Sciences coach Dave Pauley. "We miss a lot of shots this year. It helps his rebounding."

Garret said he didn't run away from his father's sport intentionally.

"I was skating from basically when I could walk," Garret said.

But growing up in Avalon - "Not necessarily a hockey town. You need ice," Garret said - his parents would have to get to Vineland for him to play hockey, which he did for a time.

But basketball was easier. The recreation center was around the corner and a hoop was in the driveway. Also, the family had a house in Vermont and would go up there to ski and snowboard, so Garret wasn't always around for weekend hockey games. It was a tough commitment to make.

Bottom line: The son had choices the father never had. Growing up in a small town just outside Windsor, Ontario, Tim Kerr knew his sport was a year-round preoccupation.

"In the summer time, you're playing in the school parking lot," the father said of hockey. "I do remember trying basketball. But I wasn't too coordinated. I wasn't very good."

He was spectacular at hockey. The Flyers' Hall of Famer scored 50 goals for four consecutive seasons, holds the franchise record with 145 power-play goals, and still is the top-scoring right winger in Flyers history, and third overall with 363 goals. This despite 13 separate operations during 13 NHL seasons.

Garret has watched film of his father, and seen how hard it was to move him.

"I like to try and maybe emulate my game around his," Garret said. "He had most of his success doing the dirty work, standing in front of the net. A shot from the point, he'd pick up the garbage, pick up where the [puck] is coming off, say the goalie's pads. He'd expect it to miss. . . . I try to use the same mentality."

"He's a good athlete, but he's a better competitor than he is an athlete," the father said of his son. "He certainly enjoys the challenge of whatever needs to be done."

Watching Tim Kerr's physicality, casual hockey fans may have missed the other part of it. He still had to get the puck in the net. He said he liked it when opposing teams tried to put bigger guys on him, that it was easier to play off the bigger guys.

On the basketball court, Pauley said, Garret isn't just using brawn to get to the ball.

"He moves during the air-flight of the ball," Pauley said. "A lot of players won't move until the ball's actually on the rim. He's moving, he's carving up space."

Pauley raved about Kerr's overall basketball IQ. He also offered future hope on a team that has struggled this season, with a 3-16 record going into Tuesday night's game.

"What's nice is that I tell him one thing, it's in his game," Pauley said. "I don't have to repeat things for him. An example, 'You should be up on your heels when you finish your foul shot.' It's in his game. Another thing, 'When you finish your dribble, throw a head fake.' That's a lost art. He's doing it."

Kerr is in a physical therapy program that can earn him a doctorate in six years. In many ways, he realizes that Division II is the right level for him. He doesn't have to go against 6-9 guys for every rebound.

His coach pointed out that a lot of 6-9 guys don't have Kerr's skill set.

"You saw in the Super Bowl, under physical duress, can you catch the ball cleanly?" Pauley said. "It's a key part of any game."

If the coach is going to bring in another sport, Garret earned a black belt in karate when he was younger. It was his mother's idea, he said.

"I'm not sure how old I was," Garret said. "My mom thought I was too active and I needed something to do. I think it was before I started playing sports."

A black-belt son of a humble Flyers legend, blessed with superior hand-eye coordination, playing Philly-style hoops. What's not to like?


Contact Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com or @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter. Read his "Off Campus'' columns at www.philly.com/offcampus

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