How Kevin Knox's high school career prepped him for NBA

Photo: McDAAG

Kevin Knox had a decision to make.

He was a two-sport athlete at Tampa Catholic, excelling at football and basketball. But as Knox grew to 6-foot-7 by the end of his sophomore year, he was not likely to have a long-term future on the football field.

So he and his family decided he should commit himself to basketball, freeing up time during the fall.

Don Dziagwa, Knox’s basketball coach, advised him to spend the two or three hours per day that he now had free working on basketball, whether it was on the court or in the weight room.

Knox, the son of a former NFL player, did exactly that.

“He just kind of exploded after that sophomore year,” Dziagwa said.

Knox became one of the top recruits in the country before signing on to play for John Calipari at Kentucky. Now the 6-foot-9 forward is projected to be a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, with the Knicks among his potential destinations.

Knox, who participated in a pre-draft workout for the Knicks at their practice facility on Saturday, would check a lot of boxes. He has good length, can shoot and can guard the perimeter.

He averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in his one-and-done season with the Wildcats. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from three-point range, though he has room to grow.

Dziagwa believes Knox would fit well in today’s NBA.

When he was 6-foot-7 in high school, he did a little bit of everything for Tampa Catholic. Knox handled the basketball, he shot from long distance, he defended guards.

In the NBA, Knox could create mismatch issues, either going up against smaller players at the three or using his quickness and shooting ability against larger power forwards.

Either way, he is a solid perimeter player. That foundation began at Tampa Catholic.

“We never put him with his back to the basket and said, ‘Hey you’re 6-7, 6-8, you’re going to have a 6-3 guy guarding you, we’re going to post you up inside,'” Dziagwa said. “He’s a 6-foot-9 perimeter player. We’re all watching the NBA playoffs and we saw Kevin Durant who’s [a] 7-footer and he’s bringing the ball up the court. That’s kind of how the game has developed and there aren’t really any of those true, at least, watching these Finals, there aren’t a lot of true post players.”

One of the factors NBA teams have to weigh is Knox’s youth.

He’s only 18. He turns 19 in August.

Calipari said at the NBA Combine in Chicago last month that Knox will need some time to develop.

“He is mentally a mature kid,” Calipari said. “He’s just physically young.”

Knox’s game still has room to grow.

“He still wants to be getting better so he’ll want to be coached by somebody in regards to telling him, ‘OK to get to that next level, you’ve got to do this, this and this,'” Dziagwa said.

Knox has been putting the work in throughout the pre-draft process, which has included workouts with the Magic, Bulls and Cavaliers, in addition to the Knicks.

Dziagwa said Knox was in Tampa Catholic’s gym late on a Sunday night putting up shots, just days before working out for Orlando.

Knox will just be one small forward option for the Knicks, who pick ninth. Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, Michigan State’s Miles Bridges could also be on the board. And that’s if the Knicks don’t choose to draft a guard instead, such as Oklahoma’s Trae Young or Alabama’s Collin Sexton.

“I think in his mind, I don’t think he wants to be a role player,” Dziagwa said. “I think he wants to be an NBA All-Star, which is great to have those dreams. I think it will fuel him to continue to work and keep working.”

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