LEXINGTON, Ky. — Wenyen Gabriel might’ve given Kentucky super freshman Kevin Knox a new nickname Friday night: “Silent assassin”.
“Oh yeah,” Quade Green said when hearing the nickname for Knox. “He scores so quietly.”
Just how quiet? Knox needed only 12 shots to score 27 points in Kentucky’s 103-61 exhibition win against Thomas More College. He was 8 of 12 from the floor and 10 of 10 from the free-throw line in 28 minutes. Knox might clang the rim with a few dunks, but that’s about all the noise he makes.
“I’m not a big talker or yeller or anything like that,” Knox said. “I talk on defense a little bit, but I’m not the type that’s gonna yell every time I score or nothing like that. I’m really quiet on the court. Like (Gabriel) said, silent assassin.”
There are six 5-star freshmen on Kentucky’s roster, but Knox was the highest-ranked. He was the No. 10 prospect in the 2018 class and is perhaps the best NBA prospect on John Calipari’s roster.
“When he’s on the floor, out of nowhere he’s right next to the rim,” Gabriel said. “He was being aggressive today. He made almost all his shots it felt like. It’s great having a weapon like that on the floor.”
The exhibition against Thomas More was the first look at Kentucky against another team, but it’s obviously not a preview of what the Cats will face once the regular season starts. Calipari looked more exasperated than a coach who just won by 42 points should look.
A handful of players cramped in the Blue-White scrimmage last week, and conditioning is still a problem, according to the coach.
“Right now we could play about an 18-minute game,” Calipari said. “So hopefully as we go forward we’ll have some 18-, 20-minute games. I think if it’s 40 we’re going to struggle for a while.”
Knox and Gabriel downplayed the conditioning concerns.
“We’re not too bad, but a lot of us haven’t played a college game,” Knox said of Kentucky’s stamina. “We don’t really know how big-time games go. It’s a lot of up-and-down basketball. In practice we don’t really do that much up-and-down. We do a lot of sprints and stuff, but not so much scrimmaging.”
Calipari noticed weak legs at the end of the game, but the stats showed no problem when it came to speed. Kentucky outscored Thomas More 26-2 in fast-break points.
Kentucky will get its second preseason tune-up Monday night at Rupp Arena against Morehead State. The game, which is being called the Kentucky Cares Classic, will not be televised. Ticket proceeds will go to Team Rubicon, a non-government organization that pairs military veterans and first responders to deploy emergency-response teams.