Brandon Knight's parents gave him options

For UK point guard Brandon Knight, life has always been about more than just basketball

jtipton@herald-leader.comDecember 26, 2010 

He's a published poet. His charcoal sketch hangs in his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home. "When you walk in the door, you see it," his mother, Tonya, said last week.

The Florida Boys' Choir invited him to tour with them. His classmates sat enthralled as he recited Shakespeare.

Brandon Knight is more than simply the University of Kentucky's point guard. Much more.

His wide range of experiences befit a person raised to be the antithesis of a one-and-done anything.

"No one should be one-dimensional," Tonya said. "Everybody should have options. We tried to raise him to always have options in this world."

UK fans may recall that Knight did not sign a binding national letter of intent. He kept his options open by signing a financial-aid agreement, which indicated his intention to play for Kentucky, but left him free to go elsewhere, say, if speculation about John Calipari going to the NBA proved true.

One option Knight did not have? His parents, Efrem and Tonya, did not give him the freedom to reject the idea of liberally sampling from life's smorgasbord.

When asked whether Knight embraced the idea of being multidimensional, his mother said, "Well, it's a lifestyle. It was nothing he had to embrace because he didn't know anything different.

"I don't think a good parent would ever want to have a day where their kid did not have options. That's why education was always paramount in our household. Whether he wanted to be a doctor, whether he wanted to be a lawyer, brain surgeon or whatever in this world he wanted to be, we wanted to make sure we positioned him so he could be."

Knight downplayed his artistic adventures. But he acknowledged that his parents encouraged him not to limit his achievements to athletics.

"My parents always told me that everything you do in school, that comes before the basketball court. Make sure you get that done first," he said.

Former UK star Jodie Meeks had a similar upbringing. His father, Orestes, once noted the family had a rule: homework had to be completed before playtime.

Tonya said the Knight household had no such rule.

"He just always did it," she said. "I never had to tell him to do his homework. Ever. ... From day one, you know the expectations of the house."

As an eighth-grader, Knight wrote a poem for a class. It was published in an anthology of children's poetry. Tonya recalled that the teacher gave each student a photograph to use as inspiration for a poem. Knight's picture showed a man playing a lyre.

Knight seemed to take more satisfaction in the sketch of a mannequin he did for a high school class. "You have fun seeing what your finished piece will look like," he said. "How closely it resembles what you hope it will look like."

Knight recoiled when a reporter mistakenly asked about him reciting Shakespeare to high school or UK teammates. That was for a high school class, he said. Othello, his mother said.

One experience Knight might have wished to avoid. Early in 2007, he realized that he could not feel hot or cold water with his right hand. Tests revealed he had a syrinx, a fluid-filled cavity within the spinal cord. A cyst had also developed, pressing against the syrinx.

He missed more than half his sophomore basketball season because of spinal surgery.

"I was back before the season was over," he said in downplaying the setback. He returned in time to lead Pine Crest School to the first of two Florida state championships.

"At that point, basketball doesn't matter," Tonya told the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. "All that matters is having a kid that's healthy."

Now as UK's point guard, basketball matters a great deal. Like other players, Knight spends a great deal of time working on basketball. "You live and sleep and eat and think about basketball all the time," he said.

More than once, Calipari has called for Knight to be a vocal leader.

"He talks when he needs to talk," Tonya said. "But if there is no reason for him to talk because it's just foolishness, he's not about foolishness."

Knight's favorite academic pursuits have been math and science. Those disciplines are not about foolishness or squishy interpretation. "Numbers are absolute," Tonya said. "There's no guesswork."

Same with Knight.

"Whatever you see with Brandon is what you get," his mother said. "He means what he says and says what he means."

Knight knows that at some point, he'll have to put down the basketball. It is that time that his parents want him to have options.

"There's always a Plan B," Tonya said. "If he wants to be a doctor or whatever he wants to be, I know he has enough brains to be able to do it."

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service