RALEIGH, N.C. – With about three months until his decision, Kevin Knox is closely evaluating his potential fit with his four finalists.
Each of the four schools – North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, Florida State – has highlighted the role of a current player on its roster that it thinks Knox can emulate.
“I’m looking more now into playing style -- the people they told me to watch, how they’re using them,” Knox said while in the state of North Carolina for the John Wall Holiday Invitational.
“All four of my schools, every time they play I’ve got them set. Always watch the games, the players they tell me to watch. I’m always watching the teams in my four (finalists) and looking really closely now.”
For North Carolina, that’s Justin Jackson.
The Tar Heel coaches have pitched their junior standout as the player Knox should watch closely to see how his talents are utilized – and that his likely NBA departure will creating a large playing time void that Knox can fill as a freshman.
So when Knox took his seat at the Smith Center last Wednesday night, his eyes were on Jackson.
This was the second game Knox has attended at UNC, and he plans to attend two more. His first game in North Carolina's arena was last February.
“It was great,” Knox said of his latest visit. “They came out with a good win. I think it was great for me to get out there, look at the fans, take pictures with them, see how Coach Roy and his team is doing – it was a good visit for me.
“The first game I wasn’t really looking as closely as I am now. I’m getting to the point where I’m down to four and looking into more stuff. I’m looking at the playing style. Justin Jackson had a really good game. That’s someone I’m really looking at how they’re using him.
“Overall it was a great win and I’m really impressed with them.”
Jackson totaled 28 points, five rebounds and five assists in the win over Monmouth, showing some of the versatility that has made him such a valuable contributor for UNC this season. Jackson started on the wing, logged a handful of minutes at the power forward spot, and was the game’s high scorer.
Knox’s courtside takeaway of Jackson’s role: “Being able to rebound, being able to dribble, coming off screens, being able to shoot jump shots, get to the basket. They’re using him everywhere and that’s something I like about Justin Jackson’s game.”
It proved to be a productive week for Knox’s season and his recruitment. He averaged 29 points, made the All-Tournament Team and led his Tampa (Fla.) Catholic squad to a second place finish at the Holiday Invitational. Meanwhile, his team held practice sessions at both UNC and Duke, and he attended the UNC-Monmouth game.
Roy Williams and UNC assistant Hubert Davis came to the Holiday Invitational to watch him, as did Kentucky head coach John Calipari and assistants from Duke.
Knox provided a rundown of his other three finalists during a postgame interview session.
Florida State: “Right now they’re doing really well … and are in the Top 25. Their message is basically that I’ll come in and get the minutes I want, the shots I want, be a leader on the team and fill in (Dwayne) Bacon and (Jonathan) Isaac’s spot.”
Kentucky: “I know a lot of people said that with the Jarred Vanderbilt commitment that I’d knock them off, but that’s not true. Me and Coach Cal talked and that’s not the case. Just because Jarred committed doesn’t mean that they’re off. Me and Jared play alike, but we can definitely play together, that’s something that Coach Cal talked to me about.”
Duke: “Their message is Jayson is going to leave, Harry is going to leave. Grayson and Luke are playing really well. So they have a lot of people leaving, and then the people coming in I’m really good friends with so I talk to them a lot. Duke’s message is I’d get a lot of minutes – get what I need - and they’d get me to the next level.”
Knox will continue to balance recruiting visits with his senior hoops season, though the ultimate decision will wait until the latter is completed.
“I think I’m going to end up waiting until after the season, focus on winning a state championship – getting a ring for me and my team – so I’m definitely going to wait,” Knox said. “I’m thinking late February, early March is around the timeline.”