INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Knox II knew The Talk was coming, and his father finally sat him down last summer to address the elephant-sized shoes in the room. Son, it’s about your feet.
Knox was the starting quarterback at Tampa Catholic as a sophomore in 2014 and had already drawn college recruiting interest. He figured to follow in the footsteps of his father – also named Kevin – who played wide receiver for Florida State’s 1993 national championship team.
The only problem with that was his dad’s footsteps were increasingly smaller than his own.
“We both made an amicable decision together,” said the elder Knox. “When you’ve got a size-18 shoe and you’re 16 years old – Peyton Manning doesn’t wear a size 18. Know what I mean? Cam Newton doesn’t wear a size 18. And you’re 16, still growing. He’ll probably be 6-10 (with) a 19 or 20 shoe. That doesn’t really equate necessarily to NFL quarterback. But those numbers do equate to a possible highest-of-the-high-level play in basketball.”
And so ended Knox II’s football career and launched him full-force into a basketball career that now finds him ranked no worse than the No. 7 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 by any of the major recruiting services. Duke and North Carolina jumped on him quickly, and last week Kentucky offered the 6-foot-8 small forward who claims a 7-foot wingspan.
“Football, I was really good at it,” said Knox II, noting he can heave a pigskin 60 or 70 yards, “but I needed to work on basketball, because that’s what I want to do in the future.”
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By that, he means in the NBA, and he’s tracking that way. Through his first four games on the spring Nike Elite Youth Basketball League circuit – where Wildcats coach John Calipari sat glued to his game Friday night – Knox averaged 22.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks. He hit 38.5 percent of his 3-pointers.
He patterns his game after NBA star Kevin Durant and potential No. 1 pick Brandon Ingram of Duke – “those tall, lanky wings that can handle the ball and shoot” – and figures he could play all five spots on the floor if needed. Calipari calls that “positionless basketball,” a new wave ushered in by the Golden State Warriors and adopted with gusto by UK’s coach.
It’s been a big part of Calipari’s pitch to Knox.
“He told me I’m a priority to them, told me what he wants me to do up there. He said I’m positionless, I can play anywhere on the court, and that’s something he really likes,” said Knox, who didn’t seem miffed that he had to wait a bit for the Cats to extend a scholarship. “Everyone wants Kentucky, so it was a big offer.”
Knox disputes the notion that the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are early leaders for his services simply because he visited both places – he stopped by while visiting a sick grandfather in North Carolina, he said – and swears his recruitment is “wide open,” with all suitors on equal footing.
Thanks to a father who’s been wooed by elite programs himself, Knox II is playing it cool.
That glitzy UK offer? “Just another school,” said his dad. “Coach Calipari said some good things and we liked what he said – as we like what some of the other coaches say, too. We’re just going to see what best fits our son, pros and cons, and pick a good opportunity for us.”
Knox has no official visits planned and no real timetable for his college decision. But even with the ho-hum tone of his father’s remarks Friday – he said he barely noticed Calipari on the baseline, zeroed in on his boy – there was a least a little acknowledgment of the enticing opportunity in Lexington.
“To be positionless, what Cal is basically saying is he’s going to go with that wave and take those guys that exhibit the skills Kevin has at that height – 6-8, 6-9, can dribble like a guard, post like a center, jump like a power forward – and he’s going to run with it,” the elder Knox said. “And right now, we looked at his roster: He does not have that guy on his roster. He doesn’t have it right now.”
Calipari doesn’t need a quarterback, but he’d love to land a do-everything forward with giant feet. The last guy he had like that was named Karl-Anthony Towns, soon to be NBA Rookie of the Year.
Kyle Tucker can be reached at (502) 582-4361. Email him at email@example.com .