PORTLAND, Ore. – Before flying cross-country to Portland for the Nike Hoop Summit this week, Kevin Knox watched North Carolina’s championship win on Monday night.
He didn’t shy away from letting all of his twitter followers know he was rooting for the Tar Heels.
“I was at home watching the game in my room,” said Knox. “We spread all around the house to make sure we were watching the game. It was a good game, going back and forth. Gonzaga was playing well and North Carolina was good also. It was a really good game that came down to the last minute so it’s always good to watch those types of games and it was good they came out with the W.”
“They are one of my last four schools and they just won a championship so I’m definitely happy for them and Coach Roy. I know they lost last year so it was good to see them redeem themselves and come back and win a national championship.”
Knox remained on the front of the Tar Heel coaching staff’s mind following the championship.
“I heard from Coach Roy Williams,” said Knox. “He texted me the day after the game. I talked to Coach Rob(inson) also and I haven’t really talked to the players, but the coaches reached out to me and they said they wanted to get on the phone and talk a little bit.”
Knox flew out from Florida to Portland on Tuesday, and Hoop Summit team practices began on Wednesday. The timing of the travel and the change in time zones has made it difficult for the two parties to connect.
“Coach Roy just wanted to talk to me after the championship game and I’m pretty sure he wanted to talk to me about next year and the game on Monday night,” said Knox. “He’ll probably want to catch-up with me and it will be a good talk. The time difference here is a little harder. He tried to get to me yesterday, but we couldn’t catch-up. They want to come see me and they know I’m a big priority for them so they want to make sure they stay in touch with me.”
Previously, Knox planned to make his college decision in mid-April, but after his Thursday morning practice session, Knox indicated that his decision would most likely come at the end of the month after he is able to set-up in-home visits with the coaches of his finalists.
“Right now I’m thinking at the end of the month,” said Knox. “There are a lot of things going on with Jordan Brand (Classic game) and still have to set-up in-homes. A big part is seeing who is staying and leaving and who is coming in so I’ll definitely look at that. It’s good to play with some of the juniors and seniors and the older guys as they’ll teach me a lot of new things, so we’ll see how that goes.”
One person that is expected to leave college is junior Justin Jackson, who the UNC coaching staff has highlighted for Knox to watch over the last two years.
“Sophomore year he didn’t really shoot the ball that well, but during his junior year he really shot the ball well,” said Knox. “It’s really good to see the improvement and see how he’s been in the gym working, and how UNC’s bigs helped him out a lot, being able to throw the ball inside so he can get him open on the wings. It’s good to see how the improvement is getting there and hopefully after the season he can go on and be successful.”
While Knox is focused on making a college decision, he is also looking forward to showing off his diverse skill-set in the Hoop Summit and the Jordan Brand Classic. It’s no secret that Knox’s improvement has been on an upward trajectory over the years and Miles Simon, the head coach of the U.S. team, has seen Knox’s improvement first-hand beginning with his U16 tryouts in 2015.
“It’s been phenomenal,” said Simon. “He’s been a football player playing - two sports - and this is the first year he’s dedicated himself to basketball. You can see the growth with his ball-handling, his shooting, his overall skill-level has just risen to another level in that time frame. For me and for UNC fans, the roof is the ceiling. For Kevin, he’s so good, he has a high basketball IQ, he’s super coachable. His progress is just going to go to another level.”
Simon struggled to repeat Michael Jordan’s infamous quote word for word, but he was dead-on when it comes to how much improvement Knox has made in his game. Going forward Knox - who measured in at 6-9, 206 pounds with a 6-11.5 wingspan this week - looks to continue his upward trajectory at the college level.
“Being more consistent with my 3-point shot,” said Knox. “I shot really well at McDonald’s and want to make sure my ball-handling stays tight. It’s definitely good to see my improvements show that I’m getting better at my weaknesses and I can turn them into my strengths sometime soon. Every year I’ve improved a lot. Every year since my freshman year, so I hope one year from now I’ll be even better than I am right now.”