LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kevin Knox is arguably Kentucky basketball’s best player, and he might also be the key to managing John Calipari’s stress level. Just when the coach was on the cusp of hyperventilating over how young and clueless his new team is, Knox came to the rescue.
“We had a really good practice [Wednesday],” Calipari said, “and Kevin Knox was unbelievable. He made a little bit of a breakthrough. I had hope. I took my foot off the panic button [Wednesday] after practice. I still got both hands on it, but my foot is no longer on it.”
Knox is a 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American who has the skills of a guard but the body to play in the paint. He’s a potential lottery pick and — along with guard Hamidou Diallo — a leading candidate to be the guy when the Wildcats need some to take over game. That’s what Calipari got so excited Wednesday.
“It was [Knox] rebounding the ball, playing tougher. It was driving into the lane and taking hits. Normally he wouldn’t drive in and he would take a shot,” Calipari said. “I’m forcing him to drive. He’d rather shoot a jumper. ‘You’re not, you’re driving the ball.’ [Wednesday] he just got it. That’s what happens. These kids, you’re asking them to do stuff they’ve never had to do. He got it.”
Knox could sense the light bulb coming on, and he’s happy to know it was a relief to his coach.
“I was really aggressive going to the basket. I was knocking down shots, communicating on defense, rebound the ball really well — me and Hami did a really good job of that — and Cal was really loving it,” he said. “If I keep practicing like that, I think we’ll be really good. In high school, I shot a lot of jump shots because I was just always bigger and I was the alpha dog, basically. Coming here, Cal don’t really like jump shots unless it’s a pull-up or a floater type.
“So I’ve got to get used to his playing style. My high school coach wanted us to shoot nothing but threes and jump shots, high-paced offense. Cal wants high-paced offense by going to the basket.”
Now that he understands, Knox said Wednesday’s breakthrough practice was only the beginning — and he hopes his young teammates will follow his lead, thus saving Calipari from a mental breakdown.
“I’m starting to pick it up more,” Knox said, “so I’m just going to keep doing it and hopefully Cal will not panic as much as he is.”
Previewing 2017-18 Kentucky Wildcats
- P.J. Washington has ‘ridiculous’ length, ‘relentless’ style
- How football got 5-star Kevin Knox to Kentucky
- Freshman PG Quade Green already leading young Cats
- Teammates: Hamidou Diallo can dominate … if he wants to
- Wenyen Gabriel is a fighter, and UK needs him to be
- What the Wildcats will miss while Jarred Vanderbilt is out
- John Calipari sees 2014 Cats, good and bad, in this team
- Full 6,500-word Calipari preseason Q&A
- Players vote on Cats’ best dunker and best shooter