VAUGHT: Knight a success in class, too

Not only is Brandon Knight way ahead of most freshman basketball players on the court, he's way ahead of most in the classroom as well. Knight was one of the nation's top high school point guards last year, but Kentucky coach John Calipari said he was also impressed with his academic success.

"Here is a kid that had one year (of college credit) under his belt when he started here," Calipari said. "After one year, he will have two years (of credit). That is what you want, a guy who will work. That is what your culture becomes. To survive here, you have to work like he works.

"But this is so unusual. I have never heard of it before. I have heard of kids coming in with a couple of classes, but not a year (of classes)."

Knight went to Pine Crest High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., one of that state's best academic schools.

"I went to one of the best academic schools in the nation, to be honest. It kind of prepared me for the next level and continued to push me academically. It prepared me for what I have to do in college and will make things easier," Knight said.

He says most students at his school took advanced classes to earn college credit.

"From where I am from, it is pretty normal," he said.

The 6-3 Knight is the second all-time leading scorer in Florida with 3,515 points and a two-time Gatorade National High School Player of the Year, yet he has always given equal emphasis to academics.

"I think it helps to have written down goals and focus on what you need to focus on. Then things come a lot easier because you visualize what you need to do to succeed. I focus on what I need to get done and use good time management," Knight said.

He says his parents, Efrem and Tonya Knight, always emphasized academics over athletics.

"When I was younger, you become what you are taught. They taught me the importance of academics, and as I got older, they started riding me less and less," he said.

"It eventually became a part of how I was. It just became if I didn't do well, I was upset myself. They didn't have to get on me. It was part of me and stuck with me.

"Now I try my best in school and if I don't do well, I am upset with myself. That is why I am always trying to achieve an A. It's the same thing on the court with always trying to do the best I can."

Knight admits he could probably graduate from Kentucky in as little as two years if took enough summer school classes — or if he perhaps was thinking ahead to leaving UK early for the NBA.

"I am proud that I could maybe graduate in two years, but I never like to be satisfied. I like to push myself, whether it is academically or on the court. I am happy with it, but I try not to be satisfied," he said.

He takes the same work ethic to basketball and has had to force himself to rest at Kentucky.

"I just like to make sure I am doing something each and every day to get better. What I am trying to do now is rest my body so that I can be prepared to be in a situation where I can get better," Knight said. "If you are constantly in the gym killing yourself, you are going to hurt yourself eventually. I am trying to learn to rest and pick my spots to go hard for an hour and then rest the rest of the time.

"That's not easy for me to do. I love being in the gym and lifting weights. That's something I did this summer. I did a lot of lifting (and) running so I could be in shape and played a lot of pickup games."

Knight has made one other major change — he cut his hair before he came to Lexington.

"I had my hair since the fourth grade. I was getting a little bit tired of it, and I cut it just because the lady I had doing it at home did it each and every time I got my hair done," he said.

"I am very picky about who does it. I don't even want my mom to do it. She wasn't going to move up here with me. She has a life of her own, so I kind of decided to cut it and not have to worry about it.

"At first, it took me a while to adjust to not being able to see my hair and knowing I had short hair. But eventually I got used to it." He doesn't think he'll lose any of his basketball power as Samson did in the Biblical story, where his long hair was the secret to his strength and he lost it when a Philistine woman named Delilah tricked him and cut off his hair.

"That is what my Dad teased me about. I feel God is going to be with me as long as I keep him first, so hopefully nothing like that will happen to me on the basketball court," Knight said.

He's not worried, either, that he set the bar too high for himself with his impressive play on the Wildcats' exhibition trip to Canada.

"I think you always want to play well. I would not want to play bad and then well. I want to play well all the time," Knight said. "I am not really focused on the individual stuff. I am focused on us as a team. I hope we set the bar high as a team so fans know what to expect and other teams know what to expect from us.

"If you win games and get better as a team, the individual things will follow. You don't have to worry about how high the bar is set because you will be winners, and winning is what I like."

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