Karson Knight — No. 2 for Elizabethtown — has played in four state tournaments but for the first time in her career had her name and number announced as part of a Sweet Sixteen starting lineup before the Panthers’ game against Bowling Green on Wednesday.
And to think, it almost didn’t happen.
When Elizabethtown girls’ basketball coach Donnie Swiney placed new jersey orders in the summer, he ordered a uniform for Knight. There was nothing unusual about that except that he did so knowing the jersey might not get worn during the Panthers’ 2017-18 campaign; Knight told Swiney and her dad, assistant coach Jimmy Knight, in the spring that she would not play her senior year.
She lost basketball but got her summer back — basketball is a yearlong ordeal at a program the stature of Elizabethtown — and got to be a “normal kid” for a while, her father said. She took up a new sport, cross country, in the fall and loved it.
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“I never brought up the word ‘basketball’ all summer long,” said Jimmy, who’s been an assistant at E-town for the last decade. “It wasn’t gonna be one of these things where I’m trying to talk her back into it. A kid’s got to want to play something herself.”
It was running cross country that reignited Karson’s passion for competition. In a way, she ran off her basketball burnout.
“Cross country was fun and new, but basketball is my sport,” Knight said. “It just made me think, ‘I need to finish my sport, I’ve only got one more year.’”
She told her dad a couple weeks before tryouts that she wanted to return to the court.
“Of course I was excited,” Jimmy said. “ … There was a time I thought she was certainly done, but I’m always gonna let my kids make their choice.”
She’s averaged 9.4 points in her final go-around with the Panthers. In their Sweet Sixteen opener Wednesday — a 62-41 victory over the Purples — she ended with eight points and three assists. Those numbers don’t leap off the page, but Knight’s contributions don’t ever really do that.
“Karson probably sees the floor overall better than anybody we’ve got,” Swiney said. “And she makes some passes that not many high school kids that I’ve seen have been able to make. She’s able to zip it through and thread the needle, and she’s done it multiple times this year. Her court awareness, her leadership, her experience — that’s gonna be hard to replace next year.”
At least he didn’t have to replace it this year. Knight knew she had a jersey waiting for her, and she’s glad she did.
“Tanisia (Murphy) told me that he ordered one for me but at that time I had no idea I was gonna play,” Knight said. “That was like in August. But thank God he did.”
Elizabethtown vs. Clark County
What: Sweet Sixteen quarterfinal
When: 1:30 p.m. Friday