‘One of a kind,’ Georgia’s piano man

sports@macon.comMarch 4, 2014 

ATHENS -- As he was growing up, it would not have been surprising to see a basketball in the hands of Kenny Gaines. But finding him seated behind a piano or taking the football field -- in a marching band uniform -- was not an uncommon sight either.

“I don’t seem like the marching band type,” said Gaines, Georgia’s sophomore shooting guard.

Gaines joined the drum line for Whitefield Academy in Atlanta his sophomore year, but his musical prowess does not end there. He plays the piano and the trumpet, in addition to singing and even doing a little pregame dancing.

“In the tunnel before we usually go out, we do the ‘Nae Nae’ as a whole. ... We have our little moment of silence before the game, and I usually pray before we come out and proceed to dancing,” Gaines said.

Basketball takes up most of Gaines’ time nowadays. With so few minutes to spare between practice, games and classes, his musical endeavors fall to the back burner.

Occasionally, Gaines says he has a few moments to spend with the keys over in Rooker Hall, a dorm on campus, and at a recent away game, a hotel piano afforded him the chance to play for his teammates, many of whom had not heard him play before.

His off-beat extracurricular activities only expand from there to include pool and ping pong.

“I just do a lot of crazy stuff,” Gaines said.

Georgia head coach Mark Fox said it is the collaboration of such personalities as Gaines’ that is one the team’s greatest strengths. He says it means there are “not a lot of dull moments,” and he praised Gaines for his talents both on and off the court. Brandon Morris, Gaines’ teammate who knew him growing up, agrees.

“It’s exciting for someone to be that versatile, to play basketball and be able to turn around and do something like be able to play the piano or play the drums,” Morris said.

But it is basketball that has captured Gaines’ heart, and he hopes to pursue it as long as he can.

He has emerged this season as one of Georgia’s top two scorers, averaging 13.1 points per game. He has been Georgia’s leading scorer in five of its past seven games.

“I got a basketball as a birthday gift when I was 2, and ever since then, I just haven’t been able to put it down,” Gaines said.

Growing up, it was from his older brother that Gaines developed the love of the game.

“I kind of watched him and tried to emulate his game a little bit, then I got a little bit better than him. He told me just move on forward with it.”

Gaines plans to eventually transition to playing in the NBA, although he is unsure which year. But if for any reason that career move does not happen, Gaines, a housing and consumer economics major, has a backup plan at the ready. He and the same 27-year-old brother who spurred his basketball career plan to tackle the real estate business together if Gaines’ NBA plans fall through.

But thus far, the 2011 Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s slam dunk contest winner has managed to juggle a multitude of unexpected talents while maintaining and improving his athletic skills even appearing on “SportsCenter” for a one-handed dunk over an Arkansas player this year. Few NBA players can claim such a multi-talented feat.

“I don’t think Travis Leslie plays the piano,” Fox said, referring to his former Georgia star dunker. “He can dunk, but I don’t think he can play the piano. Kenny is one of a kind in that way.”

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