Vandy coach dishes out praise for Brandon Knight

Stallings suggests freshman as good as Wall

jtipton@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2011 

Kentucky guard Brandon Knight wagged his tongue after going coast-to-coast for a layup against Vanderbilt last Tuesday.

MARK CORNELISON | STAFF

When the season began, Kentucky Coach John Calipari discouraged the natural inclination to compare the incoming freshmen with the stellar group of first-year players of the previous season.

That no one protests when Brandon Knight gets mentioned in the same breath as John Wall now speaks to how good Kentucky's point guard play has been this season.

"Brandon Knight, I think, is as good a freshman as maybe I've seen in this league since I've been in it," Vanderbilt Coach Kevin Stallings said Monday on a Southeastern Conference teleconference. "People will be quick to say John Wall, etc., etc. I think Brandon Knight is as good a freshman — at least at the point guard spot — as I've seen in this league since I been in it."

When asked who should get consideration for SEC Player of the Year, Stallings offered an impromptu list of candidates that included his own John Jenkins, Chandler Parsons of Florida, JaMychal Green of Alabama and Scotty Hopson of Tennessee as well as Knight.

Earlier this season, Stallings suggested that Knight might be a better point guard than Wall in half-court settings.

Knight scored so many points in high school (31.2 a game as a senior), his ability to be a pass-first point guard came into question.

"I think he's absolutely a point guard," Stallings said. "He just shoots better than a lot of point guards do. He runs the team. He can defend his position. He passes the ball well. He handles it well. I think he's great."

During his turn on the teleconference, Kentucky Coach John Calipari noted the improvement made by Knight this season. The UK coach said Knight began the season making too many turnovers and not handing out enough assists. "He's flipped that completely around," Calipari said.

Calipari also noted improved defense.

"He was awful in pick-and-roll defense early in the season," the UK coach said. "Now he's pretty good."

Besides better shot selection and communication, Knight has also became more coachable, Calipari said.

"His coachability has just gone through the roof," Calipari said. "Early on, like all freshmen, it took him time to accept he was going to be coached. You're going to be coached. ... When you're right or wrong, you're going to be told, coached, challenged.

'He's gotten better and better and better."

For a record-tying sixth time, the SEC named Knight its Freshman of the Week. He averaged 18 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in victories over Vanderbilt and Tennessee last week.

A sixth Freshman of the Week award tied Knight with James "Hollywood" Robinson for the most. Robinson won the award six times in 1990-91.

Stallings also endorsed the Player of the Year candidacy of Jenkins, the league's leading scorer.

"Because I don't see anybody else covered in the league like he gets covered," the Vandy coach said. "I don't see adjustments made, entire defenses selling out to one guy the way I see defenses selling out to him. That to me is an indication (that) he presents special problems."

Acknowledging a bias toward his own player, Florida Coach Billy Donovan said he'd love to see Parsons named SEC Player of the Year.

Donovan noted the multiple contributions made by Parsons, whose scoring, passing and rebounding led Florida to the SEC regular-season championship.

The SEC plans to announce its coaches' all-league team, plus Player of the Year and Coach of the Year on Tuesday.

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