Kevin Knox’s commitment to the University of Kentucky came as a surprise to everyone who followed his recruitment. John Calipari even admitted that Knox kept him in the dark more than any other recruit he’s ever landed.
As Knox tells it, he didn’t decide until two days before announcing his decision, moments after the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, of all times.
He told KSR, “I sat down with my family. We met and decided Kentucky is the school I wanted to go to, and I think it was the best decision for my family and I, and we stuck with it those two days and decided on Derby Day actually.”
He admitted he didn’t know the first Saturday in May was such a big day to Kentuckians.
“I didn’t know actually,” he said, when asked if he was aware of the timing of his announcement. “I really didn’t know what it was. When I made my decision, a lot people commented, saying, ‘Oh it’s on Kentucky Derby day.’ So, that’s when I find out, but I had no idea I was committing on Kentucky Derby day.”
— Kev (@kevin_knox23) May 6, 2017
Life normally gets hectic for a five-star recruit like Knox, after pledging their commitment to a university. But not for Knox; he turned off his phone as his decision went public on social media, and handed his phone over to his father.
“I turned my phone off for 24 hours after I pressed send for all of the social media,” he said. “I turned my phone off and just chilled out with brothers, played NBA 2K. The next day I turned my phone on, I got a lot of hate, but that’s just the nature of the world. Everybody wanted me to go there, so there’s a lot of fans that disliked my decision and weren’t really happy about it, but it’s all good.”
Knox’s decision ultimately came down to a three-team race between Kentucky and the two Carolina powerhouse programs: North Carolina and Duke. Each had a lot to offer, but the coaching staff and the everyday competition in Lexington made the difference in the end.
“The way [the coaches] are going to push each player they’ve ever coached, push them to the max outside of their comfort zone; that’s something I really liked. Coming here, you’re playing again six or seven All-Americans everyday in practice, so you’re basically getting better everyday and you’re getting them better, and that’s something I really wanted, to be pushed outside. That’s one of the reasons I came here. I knew I was going to get better everyday.”
One of the reasons most people were predicting Knox would land at one of the other two schools, was the logjam at Knox’s position at Kentucky. John Calipari had already landed commitments from Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, and P.J. Washington, plus the return of Wenyen Gabriel. However, that collection of talent on the wing and at forward did not discourage Knox from accepting Calipari’s challenge.
“A lot of people said, ‘Why would you go there if they’ve got Jarred, P.J., Wenyen and all those guys that kind of play similar to you?’ But that had nothing to do with my decision. I think we can all play together. Coach Cal said the same thing; we all said the same thing. We just gotta be able to play together as a team and believe in each other and do what we do best, and that’s play basketball.”
One aspect of Kentucky’s pitch during Knox’s official visit included a stop to see UK football recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow, which Knox did not expect. Turns out, Knox’s father, Kevin Knox Sr., knows Coach Marrow from their short time together with the Buffalo Bills in the early 90s. Knox Sr. wanted to pay a visit to his old friend while in Lexington.
“When Coach Cal and KP were talking to my dad, my dad said he needed one hour to go to the football facility to see a friend,” Knox explained. “I had no clue who he was talking about. I was like, ‘Why are we going to the football field? We’re on a basketball visit. What are we going over there for?’ He said, ‘We’ll see.’ So we walked over there and he introduced me to Coach Vince Marrow and some other coach he played with. But I just talked to them and they gave me their pitch. It was a great time talking to him; my dad is really good friends with him, so of course he’s friends with him, then I got to meet him.”
Marrow did not recruit Knox to play two sports at Kentucky, but he did tell him he’s welcome to stop by anytime. After all, Knox was being recruited as a quarterback, until he left football behind in his sophomore season of high school.
As for his father’s football career, Knox said he’s learned a lot from his old man and the lessons that have been passed down are helping him in his own journey.
“It’s crazy,” he said of the advantage of having a former professional athlete for father. “My dad is one of the hardest working guys in the country. He got a lot of awards in college for being one of the hardest working players on the team. He definitely knows how to get there. He won a national championship. He got drafted. So, he knows what it takes to get there so he’s been teaching me all his ways, all the logic to it. Growing up with him is great. He’s my role model. He teaches me everything.”
Maybe Kevin Jr. will become the second member of the Knox family to win a national championship and get drafted.
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