LEXINGTON, Ky. — If Class of 2017 stars Wendell Carter and Gary Trent Jr. have their way, Kevin Knox II will join them in a three-man package deal of Team USA gold medalists headed to the same college. That would be bad for Kentucky, because Carter and Trent Jr. look like Duke leans.
But here’s the good news for John Calipari: “That is so far — that’s like Siberia far” from being true, Knox’s father (also named Kevin) told SEC Country. “We will sit down as a Knox family and decide where we want to go. He’s a top-10 talent and certain schools recruit top-10 people and they end up going together, but I know for us, we do not associate ourselves with anybody.”
Carter, Trent Jr. and Knox are friends, and they did win a gold medal together this summer at the U17 FIBA World Championships, and the other two have pitched the idea of teaming up again at the next level. But unlike Carter and Trent Jr., who talk openly about their desire to pick the same school, Knox seems serious about making his own decision.
“I don’t really do package deals like that, like some other players talk about,” said the 6-foot-8½, 203-pound small forward with a 6-11 wingspan. “But a lot of players said they really want to play with me, so I’ll see what their list is, see what my list is, and go from there. I’m pretty sure wherever I go, there’s going to be a kid on the floor that I’ve played with before.”
For instance, he also befriended 5-star recruits Jarred Vanderbilt and Trae Young during Team USA training camp this summer. Kentucky is in great shape to land both.
And speaking of that list, Knox trimmed his to 10 schools on July 16: UK, Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, Florida State, Villanova, Miami, LSU and Alabama. He said the Blue Devils, Tar Heels, Seminoles and Calipari’s Wildcats are recruiting him the hardest.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of their head coaches watching my games,” Knox said at Peach Jam earlier this month, in the thick of the July evaluation period. “They’re showing that they’re really making me a priority. That’s really important. There are a lot of games going on, a lot of top players, and when you see a coach is there watching you, you take that (as you’re) a priority.”
Although he still has not set up official visits and doesn’t plan to make a college choice until after his senior high school season at Tampa (Fla.) Catholic — where he averaged 29.6 points and 10.6 rebounds last year — a pecking order in his recruitment is “starting to shape up,” his father said. “Those individuals that really want him, they’re just staying consistent in calling.”
Kentucky really wants him. The elder Knox, a wide receiver on FSU’s 1993 national championship football team, said he talks regularly with Calipari and top UK assistant Kenny Payne, who he called “a really good guy.”
The Cats’ pitch has been the same since Day 1: You’re versatile, and that’s our thing. Knox, who can play on the wing or as a face-up power forward, with super athleticism, solid handles and a smooth jumper, started at quarterback on his high school football team as a sophomore.
“When you’ve got a size-18 shoe and you’re 16 years old — Peyton Manning doesn’t wear a size 18,” his father said, so Knox gave that up to focus on basketball last summer. But the point remains: he can do a little bit of everything.
“Coach Cal basically says I can play 1-5, that I’m positionless,” Knox said, evoking Calipari’s biggest buzzword of the past two years. “That’s one of the messages to me when they came for their in-home visit, that I’m really a positionless player and at Kentucky I’d thrive in their system.”
There are plenty of draws to Duke, too, package deal aside.
The Blue Devils are “really active” in his recruitment, Knox said, making it clear that he is a top target. He’s attracted to Duke’s style of play — “They give their wings a lot of freedom, and that’s something I really like” — and coach Mike Krzyzewski’s ability to coach pros, both in college and on Team USA.
Knox, rated as high as No. 6 overall and no lower than No. 12 nationally, also noted the Devils’ recent run of recruiting success. Duke signed what some considered a better class than Kentucky’s in 2016 and is trending for several top prospects in 2017.
“I guess they must be saying the right words,” he joked. “A lot of guys talk about Duke. A lot of 2017 (recruits); there’s a whole bunch of kids. They all like Duke.”
So is that reason for the Wildcats to worry?
“I think Kevin Knox is making his own college decision, not based on anybody else,” Scout.com director of recruiting Evan Daniels said. “But he’s not in any hurry. I think Kentucky is one of the contenders, but Kevin hasn’t really gotten this down to a working number yet, so nobody really knows.”
* Follow Kyle on Twitter @KyleTucker_AJC. Reach him at Kyle.Tucker@ajc.com.