The Kentucky Wildcats pulled off one of the biggest recruiting upsets in the 2017 class by landing Kevin Knox.
Everyone expected the five-star wing out of Tampa to pick Duke or North Carolina, but he shocked the world by picking the blue-blood program that resides in Lexington. Even Florida State was thought to be ahead of UK heading into the announcement.
Part of why Knox picking UK was viewed as an upset was because his father, Kevin Knox Sr., reportedly wanted Duke. His mom, a former Florida State volleyball player, reportedly favored the Seminoles.
If Marques Bolden taught us anything, it’s that parents can be the difference-maker in any recruitment, but Knox Sr. wasn’t going to be that. He wanted his son to make his own decision, and thankfully, that ended up being UK.
In an interview with Cats Pause, Knox Sr. broke down his son’s commitment, which apparently came down to Duke, Florida State and UK.
“It went down to the wire,” said Knox Sr. “The letter that he had written [for USA Today], he left the name at the bottom. It was either going to be Tallahassee and Seminole Nation, Durham and the Cameron Crazies or Lexington and BBN. We told the editor at about 7:35 so it came down to the wire.”
But when the final horn sounded, it was UK who came out on top. A big reason why was due to John Calipari’s track record of developing freshman at a fast rate and getting guys ready for the pros.
"From all of our sessions and doing all of our criteria, we felt like all of them had great offenses," said Knox Sr. "All of them did great in transition, and all of them play NBA-style defense, but it seemed like Kentucky was on steroids. They were always bigger and stronger in those categories. We had a great relationship with Coach Cal and Coach [Kenny] Payne, and you have to trust somebody, and we felt like this was the school we were going to trust with our son's God-given ability."
Perhaps the biggest reason UK wasn’t viewed as a real threat for Knox was due to them already having P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel in the fold for next season, not to mention Hamidou Diallo can also play on the wing.
That would seem to make it hard for Knox to have a major role at UK, but Knox Sr. doesn’t think so. In fact, Calipari told them that Knox could come in and take on the role Malik Monk had this past season.
"We never took that into consideration," Knox Sr. said of UK having so many wing-type players. "That's why the experts never had Kentucky as one of Kevin's final two. We knew what Cal said from the first day he saw him and what he was going to be, and that never wavered. He's a 2-guard. He's so similar to Kevin Durant, Paul George and that's scary. He said, 'we're going to play him as a guard.' Point blank period. Will we take advantage of the matchups? Absolutely. Will we post him up? Absolutely.
"Cal said watch Malik Monk because when he leaves, you're going to fill right in. Kevin is almost like a five-tool baseball player. Those were the things we looked at, and when you saw the players that they were signing, they didn't quite have all of those tools. P.J. Washington is a phenomenal athlete. Almost Draymond Green-esque but he's not looked at as a guard. Jarred Vanderbilt wasn't looked at like a guard. They're not three-point shooters. They're stretch fours. Kevin runs pick and rolls. He's shooting threes. He's pulling up from the volleyball line. We saw it as an exciting possibility. Kevin was a different component."
Monk was one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball this past season, so telling Knox that’s the kind of role he could have has to be very appealing. Knox was also a great scorer in high school, and with the way UK’s roster is shaping up, he could easily be their top scorer as a freshman.