FORT MYERS, Fla. – Kevin Knox versus Jeremiah Tilmon was the heavyweight match-up on the first day of the 44th annual City of Palms tournament. Knox welcomed the attention and responded with 30 points, 12 rebounds, 6 steals, and 3 blocks in a victory.
“I really thought today was a good win,” said his father, Kevin Knox Sr. “For Kevin, I thought he displayed an array of abilities. To guard the 6-11 huge big and then get a rebound and become an instant guard. It’s almost like he’s a chameleon. He’s able to be a point guard, a two, a three, a four, a five. He was able to shoot the three, the mid-range, and dunk it, so I thought he did very well.”
While Knox’s senior season is just beginning to take shape, he is starting to come down the home stretch in his lengthy recruitment. He took his first official visit to Duke in the fall and now has three officials coming up in January and February with Florida State, Kentucky, and North Carolina.
“I want to commit after the season,” said Knox. “Focus on the season, win a state championship and get back to Lakeland. I’m going to go to all the schools. I have my officials coming up, but will take some unofficials to watch the schools as well.”
“North Carolina is my last (official) visit. That doesn’t mean anything, it’s just how the schedule worked out and I’m looking forward to all three.”
Kevin Knox has already visited the campuses of all of his finalists and has received numerous recruiting pitches from the four coaches left in his recruitment.
“Each school has their own message to me,” said Knox. “Lots of schools say they put the most players in the NBA and that I would thrive in their system and other schools say I will get there and be an immediate impact and can shoot the ball as much as I want. Each school has a different message so I’m just going to go to each campus and just see how I like it in person.
“Every time they play on TV I have those games in my phone and I’m watching just to see the strategy they have, the playing style and the players they are having me look at. Duke has me watching Jayson Tatum, Kentucky has me watching Malik Monk and how he comes off screens and gets to the basket as well as Wenyen Gabriel who is playing on the wing and down low. Florida State has me watching Jonathan Isaac and North Carolina has me watching Justin Jackson. All of those players are really good and they can score inside and out. They come off screens, they can rebound and start the break.
“UNC is telling me I’ll be on the wing which is why they are having me watch Justin Jackson. They think he will go pro and that I can just come in and fill in his spot on the wing. He’s been playing really well this year.”
Having Knox watch the stellar play of Justin Jackson is not the only thing UNC has going for it in the recruitment.
“Joel (Berry) and Tony (Bradley) are the two players I talk to the most since they played with my AAU team,” said Knox. “Also, the up-tempo system is definitely something the coaches talk about. Roy says they play the fastest and I definitely like getting up and down the court.”
Knox is actually scheduled to take two unofficial visits to Chapel Hill in addition to that scheduled official visit. He plans to attend UNC's game against Monmouth on Dec. 28 while in the area for the John Wall Holiday Invitational in Raleigh.
In order to fill the shoes of a Jackson, Tatum, Monk, or Isaac, Knox knows that there are still improvements he must make for the next level. Shooting, ball-handling, strength, and leadership are all focal points for the continued growth of his game.
“Last year, I wasn’t as confident as I am this year,” said Knox. “I’m really confident this year, shooting the ball, handling the ball, running the team, being more vocal on the court. We have a lot of young players on the team and they look up to me so I've got to be able to talk them through the big-time games and how to focus and stay in the game.”
Shooting / Ball-handling:
Against Tilmon and East St. Louis, Knox showed improved ball-handling skills and a tighter shooting form on his outside shots. He pushed the ball up the court after defensive rebounds, making quick moves in transition when pressured by smaller guards. He knocked down threes from the top of the key and the corner, in addition to step back jump shots from 15 feet. At times, he became content to shoot from the outside resulting in rushed shots.
“He’s worked really hard on that part of his game, maybe to the extent that he’s worked really hard and he’s a really good shooter that he wants to continue to take those outside shots,” said head coach Don Dziagwa. “I tell Kevin, I know you can shoot it, but right now you are only hitting 26 percent. Late in the game he started to drive the ball and get to the basket. That’s what I really like, just because you can shoot it, doesn’t mean you need to always shoot it.”
Knox gave up 50 pounds in the post to Tilmon. While he had back-side help, Knox used his versatility to disrupt entry passes and was smart enough to avoid picking up cheap fouls.
“College basketball is really physical,” said Knox. “The big guys, I mean Tilmon is going to be a great college player and that’s something I’m going to have to deal with at the next level, so I’ve been in the weight room a lot getting bigger physically.
Tampa Catholic has just two senior starters and three seniors on its team.
“You know, Kevin is really working on being more vocal, but that just doesn’t come naturally to him,” said Dziagwa. “Some people are 'rah, rah,' naturally, but Kevin has always been more of a lead by example. Now with a young team, he’s realizing that there are times where he needs to be vocal and lead with his words and not just always by example.”
Knox Sr. added: “Next year, wherever he goes, the school is going to look for him to be a dominant leader. Whether it's Kentucky, Carolina, Duke, Florida State, they are going to look for him to use his experiences as a (high school) senior and step right in. Someone that does whatever is necessary to win. That’s what a leader does. The team is just looking for him to be a leader and once he does that we’ll have a chance for the (state) championship.”