Changing of the guard: Knight takes over



Nothing is ever good enough for Brandon Knight. It seems he’s consumed by an insatiable desire to improve, to elevate himself and this team, while the Cats still have the chance to play together.

Play all 40 minutes during the Blue-White scrimmage and score 37 points? He needs to improve his conditioning so he can sprint the “entire time.” He might not be joking. Score 20 points and six assists against Dillard? He needs to keep his head up while driving the lane so he can find the open man.

Everything about Knight seems precise. Concrete. Defined.

That’s why he likes calculus, and that’s why he likes numbers.

“They’re absolute, definite, straight to the point,” Knight said. “That’s the kind of person I am.”

As for the kind of basketball player he is, Knight has already shown a lot in the limited amount of time on the court. He averaged 21 points and 4.5 assists per game in UK’s two exhibition games.

“He’s a really explosive player,” forward Darius Miller said. “You saw how fast and quick he was, so it’s going to be hard for people to match up with him, especially in transition.”

Knight has shown an ability to score, both in bunches and on a consistent basis. He scored 31, 17, 27, 37, 22 and 20 in the exhibition games.

“Brandon is Brandon,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “He gives you about the same every time.”

But scoring is not the singular focus for Knight. Calipari wants Knight to be a point guard in the truest sense, distributing the ball and getting the entire team involved.

“He’s a scoring guard that has to run our club,” Calipari said. “He’s got to understand you can’t just drive in the first play of the game. You got to get everybody involved.”

Playing the role of distributor could be vital to a team that might not have as many players who can create points by themselves, for themselves.

“We’re always drilled to attack, attack, attack,” Knight said. “But we’re learning to keep our heads up and see the open man once we get in the paint.”

Calipari did concede that he wouldn’t be averse to letting Knight take over when he gets in a rhythm.

“When he saw we were dying, he took it and drove it, like ‘I’m going to go do it,’” Calipari said after the Pikeville game. “At times I’m going to just let him go. If no one else wants to do it, go do it all.”

Knight doesn’t want the team to have to resort to him taking over. He’d just as soon let somebody else take the glory. Against Dillard, Knight caught a pass way ahead of the defense, nothing but the goal, a vicious dunk and the swelling roar of a Rupp Arena crowd ready to greet him. But Knight tossed the ball off to a trailing Terrence Jones, letting his fellow freshman and teammate show off his dunking prowess.

“(Jones) made a play on the other end, so it’s time to reward him,” Knight said. “Go ahead and finish it big guy.”

While Calipari said Knight is still defining his game, his appearance has been reinvented. He cut off his cornrows. He swapped out his high school No. 11 for a No. 12 uniform, a move he made as a personal challenge to be better than his father. And although he said the decision had nothing to do with distinguishing himself from John Wall, who wore No. 11, it can certainly be perceived as symbolic, regardless of the intentions.

And though it’s useless to make comparisons, the reality is Knight is the next point guard in the Calipari lineage. Knight said he has watched tape of Wall, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, all point guards under Calipari in the past, to see how they ran Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense.

“He’s totally different than Derrick. He’s totally different from Tyreke, and he’s totally different from John,” Calipari said. “Wall is probably more athletic than him and lankier, yet (Brandon) shoots the ball better and is maybe skilled with the ball better.”

Knight wants, and needs, to become his own man, his own player. If Eloy Vargas can be believed, that would be good enough.

“You don’t have to say much about him,” forward Vargas said, before going on to say a lot about him. “He is the leader of this team. I think he is the best player on this team right now.”