Knapper capped his high school career with a game-high 31 points in the South's 115-109 win over the North on Friday night, earning co-MVP honors with Tavian Dunn-Martin. However, those watching the game know that Napper had by far the best overall game in the contest. He recorded eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals, and made sure to set up teammates as often as he worked for his own shot. Eschewing some of the And-One mix tape histrionics popular in all-star events, Knapper showed why West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins sees him as a guard to build around in the future. In addition to a silky smooth jumper (he made seven of ten in one round of the three-point shooting contest), he drove and dished, drew defenders to set up teammates, and was dominant during most of his stretches on the court. Most impressive was his decision-making. He rarely forced drives or tried to showboat past defenders, and showed a very good touch in threading passes to cutters heading for the hoop.
Despite talents that could have put him in the WVU Coliseum for the upcoming season, Knapper took the recommendation of the Mountaineer coaching staff to spend a year at Hargrave rather than on the bench or with a redshirt at WVU. After the game, he described that decision matter-of-factly, and noted that he was looking forward to playing for Hargrave coach A. W Hamilton, and against some of the top prep talent in the nation.
"He's a great coach," Knapper said of Hamilton. "And WVU has sent me weightlifting and conditioning drills, and I've been working on those. I want to be more explosive."
Before he heads to Hargrave in August, however, he will go back to Morgantown, where he has spent time in open gym playing with, among others, Juwan Staten and Jevon Carter, who have given him many things to work on as he develops his game. Building upper body strength is one of the key reasons for Knapper's decision to go post-grad for a year, but it will also allow him to improve his already sharp ballhandling and make him an even better surveyor of the floor.
"Explosiveness and playing above the rim" are also goals for Knapper, who had a drive and rim attack that resulted in a barely missed dunk when he lost the ball going up.
"I missed that one, but I can do it," he said with a smile. "I just want to get better and more explosive."
Knapper will get a couple of months at WVU before enrolling at Hargrave in late August, and he's looking forward to spending time with his future courtmates.
"I cant wait to hang out with my teammates. They treat me like family up there. They are teaching me things about being a point guard and becoming a better player."