Carson Palmer signs with Young Harris, Mitchell Kennedy signs with Reinhardt

Dawn and Brad Palmer joined their son, Carson, while Mitchell Kennedy, along with parents Libby and Jay Kennedy, were on hand to watch the Heritage duo sign on to play college basketball last week. Palmer will be playing at Young Harris College, while Kennedy is headed to Reinhardt University.

MITCHELL KENNEDY

Mitchell Kennedy grew a lot as a player during his four years at Heritage High School and the senior is hoping that growth will continue over the next few years at Reinhardt University.

The 6-foot-7 post made his college choice official during a signing ceremony at the high school this past Wednesday.

"(This has) been a dream ever since I started playing basketball in high school, so it means a lot," Kennedy said "It funds success for me. This is something I wanted to do and now I'm going to do it."

Reinhardt, an NAIA school, is located in Waleska, Ga., just a little more than an hour's drive from Catoosa County.

"I like the coaching staff and, obviously, the location is great," Kennedy said. "Other than basketball, it's a great campus and it's a place I want to spend the next four years."

Eagles head coach Justin Newton, on hand for the signing, said he was excited to welcome Kennedy into the fold.

"Mitchell's a great kid and, obviously, he has great size and a lot of upside," the coach explained. "He's pretty skilled for as big as he is and playing at this level (of high school) is really, really good.

"We have a lot of guys leaving after this year and we think he can provide a lot of depth at that four or five position for us. With his versatility, he can guard different positions, so we're really, really excited to have him."

The Eagles have 10 seniors or redshirt seniors listed on their 2020-2021 roster.

Kennedy finished his senior year by averaging six points and five rebounds a game, but came up big several times for the Generals this past season, including in the Region 7-AAAA tournament.

Kennedy averaged nine points in three tournament games, including 10 big points to go with several rebounds and a huge fourth-quarter block in the finals against Cedartown that gave Heritage its first-ever boys' region title.

"Mitchell was huge for us inside and he had a big presence (in the lane), especially defensively, but he had some games, offensively, where he showed up for us, including the region finals," Heritage head coach Kevin Terry recalled. "He really showed up when it counted that night, for sure.

"He's a nice kid and a good student and there's nothing bad you can say about him. He's a good kid and he worked hard for us. He did what we asked and he just got smoother and smoother with his post moves."

Kennedy said he planned to bring rebounding, interior scoring and his shot-blocking ability to the Eagles.

"The thing about him is that his best basketball is still ahead of him," Terry continued. "He's still a little bit raw and still improving, so I think the sky's the limit with him. I think he's really going to help them at the next level."

Kennedy said he is currently undecided on a major.

CARSON PALMER

Few players in northwest Georgia enjoyed a breakout year like Heritage's Carson Palmer did during the 2020-2021 basketball season.

As a junior, he showed flashes of what he could do and made the Catoosa-Walker Dream Team's honorable mention list, but he took his game to another level in his senior season.

Averages of 10.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.6 assists not only earned him first team honors in Region 7-AAAA, but also caught the eye of college recruiters.

This past Wednesday, a player that didn't even make the Heritage freshman team four years ago is officially an NCAA Division II player as he signed on with the Mountain Lions of Young Harris College in northeastern Georgia.

"This day means everything to me," Palmer said. "Coming from a little bit of a nothing in (my) basketball career to something like this really proves that almost anybody can make it as long as you want to put in the hard work."

Palmer said he was impressed with the school on his visit.

"Young Harris has a beautiful campus and once I got over there, the coaches were absolutely outstanding," he added. "The facilities, the court, the weight training room and all the things they have, it was just an outstanding thing to see coming from a school like that."

Palmer was part of a balancing scoring attack for the Generals all season long, but stepped up his game on several occasions, most notably in the 7-AAAA tournament where the Generals won all three games and took down Cedartown, 53-42, for the program's long-awaited first region championship.

He scored 20 points with six 3-pointers in the opening win over Pickens, dropped in eight in a victory over Ridgeland and finished with a team-high 17 in the finals against the Bulldogs. It was Heritage's only win in three tries against Cedartown last season after losing twice in the regular season, both times by just three points.

"He stepped up for us," Terry said. "He was second on our team in scoring and showed he can score in a lot of different ways. He's hard to guard and teams really had to key on him. We ran a lot of our offense through him this past year.

"He was kind of a late bloomer too. He didn't even make the team his freshman year (because) we had a really deep group that year, but he kept working, kept improving and kept coming back and he ended up being one of our main pieces his senior year. He's one of our most improved players for sure."

Palmer said he couldn't wait to get to work for his new team.

"I'll be able to offer (Young Harris) some things that will really set me apart, like my 3-point ability, the inside driving, the playmaking and the defending, so I'm very excited to see what I can bring to them. I want to see how I improve over the next four years."

Palmer said he plans to study mathematics with a minor in engineering and then see how his career field opens up down the road.

In a COVID-shortened 2020-2021 season, the Mountain Lions finished 5-6 overall and 5-5 in the Appalachian Athletic Conference, falling to Tennessee Wesleyan in the AAC Tournament semifinals.

Palmer is the second local player to sign with YHC so far this spring as Gordon Lee senior Will Carswell will also be joining the Mountain Lions next season.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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