John Clay: Cats require difficult double from Knight

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJanuary 16, 2011 

Brandon Knight can really shoot.

Brandon Knight is also a point guard and, at times, John Calipari wants him to do what point guards do, like pass, and get the team into its offense, and lead, and distribute, and get things going.

But, boy, Brandon Knight sure can shoot.

So sometimes, matters can fall out of balance. The loss to Georgia a week ago was one of those times. Knight scored just 10 points, which would have been all right had he done a better job of doing what point guards are supposed to traditionally do.

Instead, afterward, Calipari said, "Brandon was awful."

To be fair, Knight was far from the only Cat that Calipari did not believe played well, but later, when we the media relayed Calipari's comments to Knight, there was a slight bit of surprise in the Floridian's eyes, before yes, he agreed.

"I feel like I didn't play as well as I could have," Knight conceded.

It's a tough balancing act, one I'm not sure we fully appreciate. Kentucky's 82-44 drubbing of LSU on Saturday seemed to point that out.

Knight made the game's first two baskets, a pair of three-pointers. He scored 13 points in the first half, on the way to a team-high 19. He made seven of 14 shots, including five of seven from three-point land.

"He set the tone offensively," said assistant coach John Robic, who subbed for Calipari in the post-game news conference.

But that wasn't the first thing Robic mentioned with regard to Knight.

"Brandon is making better decisions," said Robic.

First of all, Knight's a freshman. He's an extremely bright freshman. You don't have to know his grades — perfect 4.0 first semester — to know that; you can tell that from talking to him. But he's still a freshman, a freshman with a lot of responsibility.

A year ago, John Wall scored points, but did so in a less-traditional way. He scored his points in the paint with his quickness and at the foul line with his ability to draw fouls. He got points in transition. Wall wasn't a shooter. He was a scorer. But his team didn't need for him to get points, not all the time, not with DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson and Eric Bledsoe on the roster.

"Last year," said LSU Coach Trent Johnson on Saturday, "that team could punish you in the post. This team has four guys who can step out."

Knight is one of the four. And at times, more times than last year's team needed Wall, this team needs Knight to step out and score. It needs him to be a score-first point guard. Yet, at the very same time, it needs him be a get-everyone-involved point guard. Be both.

"And that's hard, now," Calipari said.

The loss in Athens was a perfect example. Knight played all 40 minutes, committed just one turnover. He scored just 10 points, but that wasn't what Calipari was unhappy about. The coach thought the freshman failed to get the offense going, failed to lead his team where it needs it most, on the road.

Saturday, admittedly against lesser competition, that wasn't a problem. Knight scored. But he also led.

"He had a couple of lapses today, but that's going to happen," Robic said. "He's leading the team. He's being more vocal. And I think that's true with any freshman point guard, especially the freshman point guards we've had in the past. The thing that separates him is that he can knock down shots."

What did Knight work on after the Georgia loss?

"Just sure I'm making the right passes," he said. "Like I said, just trying to run the team. That's the main thing, trying to control the game, and run the team. And put our team in good sets, and control the game. The main thing is that starts in practice."

Not coincidentally, Robic said UK had practiced really well the past three or four days.

"I think," Knight said, "that's us starting to jell."

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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