For Coach Cal, this season has been all about development – the need to get better each time you take the floor. For the majority of the season, Kentucky flirted with taking the next step toward being a great team, but didn’t really seem to do it fully until the last three regular season games and the postseason. For all of the collective growth, though, the evolution of Brandon Knight has been the most remarkable thing to watch. Knight looked uncertain and out of position in Maui, but has now emerged as one of the nation’s premier guards, matching a stone-cold killer’s mentality on offense with developing defense and improved point guard savvy. Maybe most importantly, though, he’s started to emerge as a vocal leader – a trait that was evident late in the West Virginia game when he demanded that Terrence Jones post up on the block. It was a play that Coach Cal loved.
Yes, and we were — somebody asked a question, did we come out saying we’re trying to post the ball. Yes, we did. But we had done it earlier, too, and he didn’t post. He stepped off the lane. And Brandon looked at me, and I said, “You tell him. Why are you telling me to tell him? You’re out there with him, you tell him.” And they love each other so there’s no big deal about it, and they can laugh about it later, but that’s what a good team can do. They can get on each other; they know it’s not personal.
So why has there been so much improvement from Knight over the course of the season? According to Calipari, it’s because he has the best work ethic of any player he’s ever coached. Here is the extended version of those compliments:
He is an terrific player and an unbelievable person who I’ve never seen — all the players I’ve coached, and I had guys that would live in the practice facility, literally, I’ve never seen a guy with this kid’s work ethic. His focus on where are my weak areas, and he goes after them.
I’ve had a couple. One is the MVP of the NBA, so he was kind of that way, too, who called me today, by the way, what a great young man, called me before the game to wish us well. But this young man works like he does, and both very bright basketball players.
Any time you spend that kind of time, you expect good things to happen. If you’re trying to get over, if you’re cutting every corner, if you’re trying to fool around in practice, the minute it goes wrong in the game, you expect it to continue. If you’re a hard worker and you spend the time, you expect good things to happen, even if I miss two. Everybody says, why would you give him the ball when he didn’t make a shot? Because I knew he expected to make the last one, and you have to give it — and he’s not afraid to miss the last shot. You can’t be afraid to miss it, either, now. It means if I miss it, I miss it.
Go Cats. Go Brandon Knight. Go George Mason.