On Saturday, Kevin Knox took Derby Day to another level when he shocked the world by picking Kentucky over Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, and Missouri. I was hosting a Derby party when the news broke and didn’t see it until I picked up my phone about a half hour later, at which point all of my friends learned who Kevin Knox was and were forced to watch the video of John Calipari riding his hover board around his kitchen. It’s been a few days since then, but I’m still basking in Knox’s decision; here are my ten favorite things about it.
1. No one saw it coming
Between the AAU circuits, Crystal Ball predictions, countless all-star games, and social media, basketball recruiting gets almost as much coverage as the sport itself, to the point that 90% of the time, you know where a kid’s going by the time he announces. Not so with Knox. Heading into Knox’s announcement, 87% of the predictions in his Crystal Ball were for Duke and only 13% for North Carolina. Not one of the 23 experts thought Knox would end up at Kentucky, and after the news broke, recruiting messiah Evan Daniels said that while he is very rarely shocked by college commitments, Knox’s pretty much stunned him. In recent weeks, we heard the folks at UK still thought they had a shot with Knox, hence Calipari’s trip to Tampa last month, but none of us actually predicted he would end up a Cat, which is why Saturday’s news was especially sweet.
2. It came at Duke and North Carolina’s expense
Remember this time last year when Duke was putting together a mega class that had people whispering about 40-0 and pundits gleefully pounding out articles about how Coach K had stolen Calipari’s thunder in recruiting? What a difference a year makes. Not only did Duke fail to live up to expectations during a roller coaster season, they’ve only got two five-star commitments so far in the 2017 class in Gary Trent Jr. and Wendell Carter…AND they had to steal a three-star recruit from Eastern Kentucky. Knox would have been a game-changing addition to Duke’s class; instead, Coach K struck out and Calipari got a home run.
Meanwhile, if there was ever a time for Roy Williams to land a superstar like Knox, it was now. Coming off a national championship, Roy brought his box of rings to Tampa to impress Knox last month. It didn’t work, and the Tar Heels have zero five-star players in the 2017 class. Luckily, their fan base is pretty used to that these days.
3. It eases the shooting concerns
Knox may be 6-9, 205 lbs., but he’s also a good shooter, so much so that Calipari plans to use him at the two or three spot to fill the void left by Malik Monk. The main concern with next year’s team is a lack of shooters, and while Knox won’t be the scorer that Monk was from the outside, having a 6-9 wing that can punish you in the lane and hit a consistent jump shot will be HUGE for the Cats. His size, ball handling skills, and jump shot make him the perfect example of the positionless player Calipari so often covets.
4. It takes pressure of the Hamidou Diallo decision
With the NBA Combine starting tomorrow, we’re going to hear a lot about Hamidou Diallo’s pro potential and whether or not he’ll stay in the draft, a debate that’s embroiled the BBN since Diallo declared a few weeks ago. If Diallo does stay in the draft (and I’m starting to think he will), it will be a difficult pill for most Kentucky fans to swallow; landing Knox makes that a little easier. People will still grumble, but at least we’ve got one of the top ten players in the country coming in to distract us.
5. It opens up a whole world of combinations
Say Kentucky gets Bamba and Diallo stays in the draft…what will the roster look like? Thanks to Knox, there are tons of options, specifically at the two/three spot, Kentucky’s biggest weakness before his commitment:
- PG: Quade Green/Shai Alexander
- G: Kevin Knox/Jemarl Baker
- G/F: Kevin Knox/Jarred Vanderbilt/PJ Washington
- F: PJ Washington/Jarred Vanderbilt/Wenyen Gabriel
- F/C: Mohamed Bamba/Nick Richards/Sacha Killeya-Jones/Tai Wynyard
If Diallo comes back, he’ll start as the two guard, shifting Knox to the three spot; if he doesn’t, I’d expect Cam Johnson to commit and help out at the two, giving Knox more time at the three.
Or, Calipari could say screw it and just platoon again.
6. It might help with Bamba
Knox’s dad told SEC Country that his son and Mohamed Bamba talk five days a week, and while Knox’s decision has no impact on Bamba’s roster wise, the fact that he’s joining Bamba’s other friends on UK’s roster (notably Quade Green) has to help the Cats’ chances, right? Knox’s dad seems downright giddy at the thought of the two teaming up next season.
“I just know Bamba really likes Kevin; Kevin likes Bamba. I think it would be really great for them to play together. So we just gotta see how that conversation goes over the next couple of weeks.”
Come on down and join the super team, Mo.
7. It means that the U19 National Team might actually have a Kentucky starting five
Next year’s team will be John Calipari’s youngest, and therefore, most challenging; however, it does help that the core of that team will also play for Cal this summer in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Egypt. Quade Green, Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt (if his foot injury isn’t serious), PJ Washington, Hamidou Diallo, and Mohamed Bamba will all likely be on that squad, meaning that if Bamba comes to Kentucky, Vanderbilt’s able to play and Diallo doesn’t stay in the draft, Cal could have an all-Kentucky lineup. Nick Richards (Jamaican native), Wenyen Gabriel (too old), and Shai Alexander (Team Canada) can’t be on the roster, but what’s stopping Cal from bringing Sacha Killeya-Jones and Jemarl Baker along with him?
Kentucky can’t go on an overseas trip until 2018, but the ten days in Egypt (July 1-9) and the week of training camp in Colorado (June 18-25) will be a great head start for a team that desperately needs it.
8. It came with a football assist
The hidden hero in getting Knox to Kentucky? UK Football recruiting guru Vince Marrow, who played professional football with Knox’s father, Kevin Sr. The elder Knox played wide receiver at Florida State and was drafted in the sixth round by the Buffalo Bills, where he met Marrow. The two are still great friends and met up when Knox visited for Big Blue Madness. Knox Sr. also knows Lamar Thomas, who played at Miami from 1989-92, the same time Knox was at Florida State.
Marrow was especially happy to hear the news Saturday night:
Yahtzee. The whole BBN will like that one. Congrats Coach Cal
— CoachMarrowUK (@vincemarrow) May 7, 2017
Thanks for the assist, big dawg.
9. It instantly makes Kentucky a Final Four contender next season
Even if Diallo came back to school, without Knox, UK still had some issues at the two/three spot. With the body of a small forward and the handle/stroke of a guard, Knox instantly vaults Kentucky from a team with some weak spots to a team that, once they gel and grow up a bit, can contend for a title on talent alone. By now, we’ve learned the pitfalls of overhyping a recruit, but Knox’s athleticism and versatility changes the game for Kentucky next season.
10. It gave us one of the greatest Calipari videos of all time
Knox’s commitment reportedly moved Kenny Payne to tears, but Calipari? Well, Cal was so happy he risked his life by jumping on his hover board and spinning around his family’s kitchen.
“This is a celebration,” Cal said. “That’s right, I had to do it.”
— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) May 7, 2017
That will never ever get old.
Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh…