College game an adjustment for Brandon Knight

UK freshman adjusting to role as distributor

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 11, 2010 

Kentucky's Brandon Knight (12) drove for a layup against Notre Dame on Wednesday. The freshman point guard is an eager pupil of Coach John Calipari. "I'm being told how to play the right way," Knight said.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

As John Calipari recalled it, Brandon Knight stepped off the team bus after the return from Wednesday's victory over Notre Dame and gave the Kentucky coach a high- five.

"Like 'I'm just happy,' " Calipari said of the message he inferred. " 'I'm trying to get it. I want to get it.' "

Of course, what Knight is trying to get is how Calipari wants him to play point guard. Knight's performance against Notre Dame told the coach his freshman point guard is getting it.

"I loved his pace to the game," Calipari said Friday. "He understood when to pull it out."

Knight, who averaged more than 30 points as a high school senior, is adjusting from being the primary scorer to a floor leader.

In that process, Calipari said he focuses a lot of attention on Knight in practices as well as games.

"Like, I'm on him because he's vital for us," the UK coach said. "He has to understand some things are acceptable and some things are not acceptable."

When asked to compare Knight's style of play in high school to what's being asked of him in college, Calipari said, "He shot every ball in high school, and he had to or the team would not win.

"His bad shot, his god-awful shot, the one you say why did you shoot it, was better than his pass to a guy that's open."

Knight acknowledged the big difference in playing high school and college basketball, an adjustment that continues Saturday with Kentucky's game against Indiana.

"When I played in high school, there were no repercussions for a bad shot," he said. "It was basically go out and play and do whatever you can do to try to get us a win.

"Now, I'm being coached. And now I'm being told how to play the right way (and) how I should approach different games, the mind-set I should have. That's the major difference."

The repercussions for a bad shot at UK take a verbal form.

"A lot of yelling," Knight said before adding, "Basically, being coached.

"I like it. I came here to get better. I know everything Coach Cal does is to better my game. I trust Coach."

Knight defined playing basketball the right way as making the right reads. Instead of driving against three defenders forcing up a shot, a player should look for an open teammate when the defense collapses.

During the EA Sports Maui Invitational, Knight tried in vain to crack open a Connecticut defense schooled to prevent drives to the basket. Naturally, UK coaches showed Knight video of his ill-fated drives.

"Basically, an eye-opener," Knight said of watching that tape. "It let me know you can't do things like that at this level. You have great players around you. When you're driving, you make that open pass. That's a winning play for the team."

In high school, Knight could drive on three defenders and score.

"Because everybody wasn't 6-10 or 6-11," he said. "It's a learning process."

Calipari expects Knight to revert to the high school scoring mode on occasion.

"There will be slippage," the UK coach said.

Knight expects Calpari to remind him each time.

When asked to confirm talk that Calipari is tougher on point guards than any other position, Knight said, "A little bit. I guess it's the toughest position to learn.

"I embrace it and I encourage it because I want to get better."

Knight noted that mistakes by teammates can lead to the coach reprimanding the point guard. Perhaps this is an attempt to make the quiet freshman to be more of a vocal leader.

"Maybe Terrence (Jones) is not in the right place, I get in trouble for that," Knight said. "(Calipari) starts with me first when he's yelling. Or being loud."

Knight saw himself getting more comfortable with correcting his teammates.

"They know I'm doing it so Coach won't get on me," he said.

Indiana Coach Tom Crean lumped Knight with Calipari's former point guard stars (John Wall, Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans) in the sense of individual skill being melded into the team.

As good as Knight has played so far, Calipari expects noticeable improvement ahead.

"Who's the most conscientious guy we got?" the UK coach said he asked the players. "Who's the hardest worker we got?"

The rhetorical question led Calipari to a conclusion. "It tells you within a month, you're going to see a different player."

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