Competitive Drive: Sweden native, Sunrise Christian standout commits to Wichita State basketball

Competitive Drive

BEL AIRE, Kan. (KSNW) – Sunrise Christian Academy forward Kenny Pohto, a consensus three-star, top-150 recruit in the class of 2021 – does all the little things right.

“Kenny’s a robot,” joked Sunrise Christian head basketball coach Luke Barnwell. “He just does what he’s supposed to do. He doesn’t show a lot of emotion. He’s pretty low maintenance, pretty laid back, pretty low-key. He’s not really guy that’s going to be super flashy.”

The 6-foot-11 senior from Stockholm, Sweden was originally signed to Minnesota, but when the program parted ways with former head coach Richard Pitino, Pohto was released from his national letter of intent signed in November. 

“When his recruitment opened up, it was wild for Kenny,” said Barnwell. “He had some really high-level programs recruiting him. We sat down and asked him what he wanted, and what would fit him best. At the end of the day, Wichita State fit perfectly.”

“I like the way he uses his bigs, and I feel like I could fit into that play style,” said Pohto.

Going to high school less than five miles from Charles Koch Arena, Pohto was on Wichita State head coach Isaac Brown’s radar for some time.

“Kenny fits the newer trend at our level – mobile, skilled big guys who can play and guard multiple positions,” said Brown in a statement from the university. “Coach Luke Barnwell and the staff at Sunrise Christian Academy have done an outstanding job preparing him, both physically and mentally, for college basketball. He shoots, handles and passes the ball well, and he’s experienced success in high-pressure situations against some of the best players in the country. We’re excited to have him in the Yellow and Black next year.”

The forward said he is confident in Brown’s ability to prepare him for professional basketball, a dream that would bring him 5,000 miles away from home.

“It’s always been my dream to come to the states and play basketball here,” said Pohto. “That’s why I’m here… to play in the states, go pro and play in the NBA. It’s a small step on the way, but it was huge for me to come here and play high school and now play college.”

Pohto’s deciding factor, however, had little to do with basketball itself: “I felt like Coach Brown had the best relationship with my mom and I. Usually it’s the assistant, but he recruited me personally. He called me every day, texted me every day and he was really on me.”

He hopes to garner similar relationships that he has built with his coaches over the past three seasons at Sunrise Christian, that make Kansas feel like his home away from home.

“It’s special when you have them this age group and how much time you get to invest in them and to continue that and see him and watch practice and watch games for four more years is just kind of icing on the cake for me,” said Barnwell.

Barnwell believes that Wichita State fans will be attracted to Pohto’s story of play: “Sometimes that guy that doesn’t score every possession, or block a shot, but does all the little things to help you win, that’s who Kenny is. I know Shocker fans are intelligent fans, and I think they’ll be able to see all the little things he does.”

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