Calipari compares Knox to one of the NBA’s top rookies


Kentucky freshman forward Kevin Knox goes in for a layup during the game against Tennessee in the SEC tournament championship on Sunday, March 11, 2018, in St. Louis, Missouri. Kentucky defeated Tennessee 77-72. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

The NBA Draft is three days away and every NBA team, especially those in the lottery, will be looking for their next franchise player.

Last year’s draft class included many talented rookies, such as Donovan Mitchell, Ben Simmons and Jayson Tatum.

In a teleconference on Monday, UK basketball head coach John Calipari got the chance to share why he believes one of his former players will be available in the late lottery, but could play at the caliber Tatum did in his rookie season

“There are going to be teams that pass on him (Kevin Knox), and people are going to say two years from now, ‘Why would we have passed on him?’” Calipari said.

Knox is projected to get selected late in the lottery according to most NBA mock drafts, and he’s worked out for all the teams that own picks No. 6-13.

Knox is a proven scorer in his tall frame, and would likely be a good addition to any of the teams he’s worked out for. The biggest knack on Knox’s resume is his youth and the fact that his body that might not be ready for the NBA on day one.

“You’re getting a 6-10 scorer who’s tougher than you think, but has a way to go, because he’s going to mature physically,” Calipari said on Knox.

Tatum entered last year’s draft in a similar position. Tatum’s height and weight comparisons from the pre-draft process are virtually the same compared to Knox, he was one of the youngest players available and he averaged 1.2 points per game more at Duke during his freshman year than Knox.

Tatum went on to be selected No. 3 overall by the Boston Celtics, but he made the case that he should’ve been selected No. 1 many times during his rookie campaign. He led the Celtics in scoring average during their playoff run and was one of Boston’s top players all year long.

Tatum is also one of three candidates for NBA Rookie of the Year. 

Calipari recruited Tatum and said he was impressed with how much Tatum grew this past season. Calipari thought one of the things that helped Tatum was him finally starting to grow into an NBA player.

“I never knew he had that kind of toughness in him,” Calipari said. “What I saw in the NBA, obviously he’s starting to mature, his body is starting to mature. Now you have a skilled, long, tough player who is a future all star.”

Knox will have the opportunity to do the same thing Tatum did last season, but do so on a team picking later in the draft. Knox is unlikely to be selected No. 3 overall, but once his body matures and he gets a feel for the game, he could up being one of the top players in the draft class his coach believes.

“People knew he (Tatum) was good, they didn’t know he was that tough and Kevin falls into that same mode right now,” Calipari said. “When that toughness sprouts out, that’s when everybody says, ‘How did we pass on this guy?’”