Palmer to play basketball at Oakland City University
When the Sullivan High School boys basketball team lost to Washington 69-60 in the championship game of the Class 3A Vincennes Lincoln Sectional on March 7, fans thought they had seen the last of Kevin Palmer.
After finishing as the school’s third all-time leading scorer with 1,223 points and 12th on the Sullivan County career scoring list, the
6-3, 200-pound senior forward was going to hang up his sneakers and focus on being a just another student this fall at Indiana State University.
But Palmer did not like the taste left in his mouth after being limited to seven points (3 of 6 shooting) in that title game.
“After it was over, I knew I did not want my career to end that way,” said Palmer, who on Wednesday announced on Twitter that he was signing to play hoops at Oakland City University. “I told coach (Jeff) Moore that I had changed my mind and asked him to see if he could find a place for me to go to school and play. “As it turned out, he found Oakland City and it was the only place that I considered.
“It is a little more than an hour away from home so my folks can come and see me play. It is far enough away where I can learn to be on my own, but still be close to home.”
Moore said he was happy that Palmer, who scored 428 points and averaged 16.5 points per game in 2019-20, changed his mind and wanted to continue playing basketball.
“He came back to me and said that he had decided he wanted to play,” said Moore, who has won 447 games in his 30 years as boys basketball coach at Sullivan. “I told him I would reach out to some coaches and see what I could find.
“There was John Wood (Community) College in Illinois and Oakland City.
It just worked out that Oakland City wanted Kevin. Their numbers have been down a little and I believe it is going to be a good fit for Kevin. They are moving up to NAIA, which means they will be playing a more competitive schedule.”
Palmer might have thought he was done with the name Coach Moore, but he is not.
“The coach at Oakland City is Lee Moore,” said Jeff Moore. “It is a little funny that Kevin is going to be playing for coach Moore another four years.
“Nobody could have seen that one coming.”
Palmer made 180 of 282 field goals as a senior, 64 percent, as he earned All-State Honorable Mention by the Associated Press and by the Hoosier Basketball Coaches Association. He has never shot many 3-pointers in his career (9 of 21 as a senior), but knows that will be one area of his game that will need improvement.
“I anticipate I will be playing on the wing at Oakland City,” said Palmer, the All-Western Indiana Conference performer who also averaged 6.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game as a senior. “I know
that I will have to work on my 3-point shooting.
“Also I know I will be playing against bigger players so I will have to get stronger.”
Moore said that Palmer, who also had five rebounds, four assists and three steals in the sectional loss to Washington, already has some traits that will give him a chance to succeed at the next level.
“Kevin plays hard and can defend. He has worked very hard to put himself in this position,” said Moore. “He has talent, but he has done everything possible to maximize his abilities.
“He is athletic and he is a very good defender. He is very unselfish and very coachable. Our opponents did everything to slow him down, including double- and triple-teaming him in the post, but he always was willing to make plays for his teammates. He would rather find an open teammate than force a shot.”
Moore added that he is confident that Palmer will be patient and make the adjustments necessary to play on the next level.
“I am so glad that Kevin is getting this opportunity,” Moore said. “He
is a good kid.
“It will be a learning experience for him. College will be more challenging than high school, obviously, but I know he will work hard to take full advantage of this opportunity. He will be missed.”
Palmer came with three points of breaking the school single-game record of 44 points, set by Joey Davidson against Robinson, Illinois in 1998.
On Jan. 26. 2019 as a junior, Palmer made 17 of 28 shots and 8 of 12 free throws, finishing with 42 points in a 85-71 victory over visiting Eastern Greene.
In Palmer-like fashion, Kevin had 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
“Kevin carried us that night, like he did a lot of nights in the last ouple of years,” said Moore.
Palmer said he thought playing in college this might be possible after his sophomore season. “I started to make some strides in my game after my sophomore year,” said Palmer. “I knew it after I had a pretty good junior year. At that point, I realized I had a chance to play somewhere in college, if I kept working.”
It was back on Jan. 11 when Palmer made 7 of 10 field goals and scored 17 points in a win at North Knox, which gave him 1,003 points and was 11th on the Sullivan list at the time.
In his quiet and unassuming way, Palmer passed Todd Harris, Ryan Robbins, Jeffrey Moore, Greg Wood, Tom Sevier, Jay James and Travis Bontrager to end up third on the all-time SHS scoring list.
“I think my two greatest accomplishments were scoring 1,000 points in my career and winning the WIC this year,” Palmer said. “I will never forget winning the WIC and how good that felt.
“I cannot thank my coaches, teammates and family enough. They helped me get to this point.” Palmer said he has been playing some at teammate Rocco Roshel’s house, trying to stay in shape during the pandemic that forced schools to close before this year was completed.
“I cannot wait until everything is over with COVID-19 and we can get back to normal,” said Palmer, who is undecided about a major. “I am really looking forward to working out and playing again and getting ready for this season at Oakland City.
“I know I have a lot of work to do. I weigh 200 pounds now, but think I need to gain 10 or 15 pounds of muscle. I can’t wait to get started.”