UK Men's Basketball

Five-star basketball player Kevin Knox enters final phase of his recruitment

Kevin Knox was the MaxPreps.com national junior of the year last season, after averaging 29.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
Kevin Knox was the MaxPreps.com national junior of the year last season, after averaging 29.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. cliddy@newsobserver.com

The official visits are finished for Kevin Knox, but the high school basketball star has a little ways to go in his recruitment.

Knox — a 6-foot-9 small forward from Tampa, Fla. — wrapped up his fourth and final official visit this past weekend, a trip to North Carolina. Last month, he took such visits to Kentucky and Florida State. In the fall, Knox took his first official visit to Duke.

And the past few months have been filled with a series of unofficial visits to those schools — the Knox family paid their own way to Big Blue Madness last October, for instance — all in an effort to make the most informed college decision possible.

Kevin Knox Sr. told the Herald-Leader on Monday night that his son’s college decision is indeed coming soon, but there’s much to discuss.

The family will have a series of six to eight meetings over the next few weeks to talk about the final four schools on his list and weigh the pros and cons of each program.

“Believe me, when we finish those sessions and we come out of the cave, we’ll have an answer,” the elder Knox said. “But that process is just now starting.”

It’s the final phase in what has become one of the most-watched recruitments in the country.

Scout.com ranks Knox as the No. 7 overall prospect in the 2017 class, and the gifted scorer has rocketed up the recruiting charts over the past couple of years as he has continued to add new wrinkles to his growing game.

Although listed at 6-9, he’s a versatile offensive player who’s just as comfortable on the perimeter as he is around the basket and has developed into a dangerous outside shooter.

UNC was the final school to get him on campus for an official visit, and Knox Sr. said Coach Roy Williams came at them a little differently than the others.

“I thought they sold their desire to — not only want him — but they showed there was a need for him as well,” he said. “Obviously, it feels good when Coach Roy looked at us and said, ‘It’s not necessarily a want here. There’s other schools that may want you. But here at North Carolina, we not only want you, we need you.’”

Knox’s father said Florida State, where he and his wife both attended school — and Knox Sr. was a standout wide receiver for Coach Bobby Bowden — had a similar approach. With UK and Duke, it was more of a “want.”

“When you dissect each roster, I can actually see where Florida State and North Carolina would absolutely, positively need a guy like Kevin in the role that he would fulfill,” Knox Sr. said. “Whereas Kentucky, I think they might be all right. As well as Duke.”

That doesn’t mean UNC and FSU have jumped to the top of Knox’s list. The player’s father said they haven’t gotten as far as naming favorites, and he’s made it clear in the past that just because the parents went to Florida State doesn’t mean the son will, too. “It’s his decision,” he said.

Every school on Knox’s list has given the star recruit a current player to watch, an indication of how he would fit with that program next season.

For UNC, that player is Justin Jackson, a national player of the year candidate who’s leading the Tar Heels with 18.6 points per game.

For UK, that player is Malik Monk. “That’s who I think you are,” Calipari told Knox, according to his father.

Some recruiting analysts downgraded UK’s chances to land Knox after the commitment of five-star small forward Jarred Vanderbilt in December, an addition that followed the signing of five-star combo forward PJ Washington a month earlier.

Washington and his father told the Herald-Leader over the weekend that there’s plenty of room for Knox in the Wildcats’ No. 1-ranked recruiting class.

Knox Sr. agreed.

“We just feel that Kevin’s skills are totally different than their skills,” he said. “I don’t think that they play the same position. … We have never looked at their signings as a deterrent.”

On the other hand, if Jackson were to return to UNC for his senior season?

“Now that’s different, because they’re similar players,” Knox Sr. said. (Jackson is currently projected as the No. 25 pick this year, according to DraftExpress.com.)

Knox Sr. also said to expect a final decision from Knox between April 1 and April 15, a two-week window that will come soon after the McDonald’s All-American Game, which will be played March 29.

Knox — along with UK’s other top target, Mohamed Bamba — were assigned to play for the same team as all four of Calipari’s incoming McDonald’s All-Americans: Washington, Vanderbilt, point guard Quade Green and center Nick Richards.

“When you look at the NBA, people are positioning the good players to play with good players,” Knox Sr. said. “So when you talk about being able to play with all the good players, that says something. The quality of athletes that he has in the NBA, it speaks volumes.

“We’re getting loaded up at Kentucky, if we decide to go to Kentucky.”

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