Jeremy Kendle has played basketball for some of Australia’s best teams since he moved here from the USA in 2015. He’s part of the Toowoomba Mountaineers’ team and was named the Queensland league’s most valuable player. A great season with the Bendigo Braves earned him a spot on the Brisbane Bullets’ roster. He also played with New Zealand’s Canterbury Rams and the Sydney Kings before returning to the Bullets last year.
But ten years ago, it seemed impossible he’d ever be in demand. In 2008, after years of devastating injuries, he wondered whether he’d ever be able to follow his passion. In a Vision180 interview with Alex, he revealed that this difficult period brought him closer to God, and inspired him to build his own ministry, with basketball as his platform.
Jeremy was born in Jeffersonville, Indiana, a basketball town in a basketball state. It’s a place full of kids with big dreams. His Dad put the ball in his hands at a young age. When Michael Jordan was in his prime, he became Jeremy’s idol. He also took inspiration from Penny Hardaway and Shaq O’Neal during their hot streak for the Orlando Magic.
Jeremy stood out from the crowd in high school, but things started to go wrong when he broke his foot in senior year. After playing on it for the rest of the season, he let it heal before junior college. ‘About a week before I went off to junior college,’ he said, ‘I re-broke that same foot.’
The foot didn’t heal over the following season, so he had to have surgery. The first surgery was unsuccessful, which meant another operation, and more precious time lost in recovery. Thanks to all these setbacks, through his first three years in college, Jeremy hadn’t played a single game.
But his struggle wasn’t over yet. On his first day of training, Jeremy broke his other foot. After more downtime and healing over the Christmas break, he returned, and broke that foot yet again. ‘Three, three and a half years straight,’ he said, ‘where I went from broken foot to broken foot to broken foot.’
‘There was a lot of setbacks, a lot of “why God?” moments, a lot of pain,’ he admitted. ‘I think in that season of my life I did a lot of searching, trying to figure out what happens if I can’t play basketball.’
‘It lead me closer to God, and that relationship was starting to build. It was a long three, three and a half years, but it taught me a lot about just being persistent, and keeping your faith despite how things may look. Pushing through pain, just getting through that mental barrier as best I could.’
Jeremy’s mental recovery took even longer than his physical healing. For a long time, he was convinced that every ache or pain was another break. ‘But once you get free to do your thing and play,’ he said, ‘you’ve just got to go for it, have the perspective, and hope that things are going to work out physically.’
my character is what I need to develop most. That’s the most important.
And finally, they did. Jeremy played three healthy seasons for Bellarmine University, where he won the 2011 Division championship. And it was his coach at Bellarmine who got him a spot with the Mountaineers. He says it was just before he got to Australia that he surrendered everything to Christ.
He hadn’t grown up in a family where church was important, but his long ordeal had inspired him to look for answers. ‘It really got me researching, and trying to find out for myself what was up with this Jesus character. It changed my life completely, completely turned everything around.’
‘Ultimately, sport’s going to end for us all. For me, that tells me that maybe my character is what I need to develop most. That’s the most important. So that means not finding your identity in your circumstances, or one missed shot, or one injury, or one bad game, or whatever it is. But instead finding your identity in your beliefs, your convictions, your faith, your attitude and character.’
That’s the message he’s spreading through the ministries he’s a part of. Hoops for Christ, founded by a good friend, seeks to use the game as a platform for sharing the Gospel, and planting young players in local churches.
His personal ministry, Jeremy Kendle Basketball, shares a similar approach, building up the next generation by offering them life skills that will stay with them once the game is over. ‘We want to make sure that we’re leaving the players that we train with something that they’re going to take with them after basketball,’ he said.
Basketball is his lifelong passion, but Jeremy knows where his talent came from. He understands the responsibility that comes with it. He sees the game he loves as a chance to serve the community, and help the people around him. ‘I believe wholeheartedly that’s what I’m here to do,’ he said.
‘God’s been good. I’ve been able to travel the world, and I hope to continue to use the game, never let it use me, and just help people with it, any way possible.’
Check out jeremykendlebasketball.com
Listen to more of the interview below