Former Kentucky star impressed by Cats

Published 11:50 am Friday, August 3, 2018

LEXINGTON (KT) — Kevin Knox got his first glimpse of Kentucky’s basketball team next season and came away impressed.

“(Tuesday) at practice they were going at it,” Knox said prior to making an appearance at the John Calipari Draft Academy Camp. “(They were) competitive (and are) really good guys.”

Knox said the current squad has “got guys who can really shoot the ball” and doesn’t lack leadership.

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“They have a lot of leaders on the team this year. I think they’ll have a really good year this year. (Kentucky coach John Calipari) is doing a great job again, Kenny Payne and the other coaches. The players really want it and compete at practice. It’s fun to watch.”

Jarred Vanderbilt, who was selected by Orlando as the 41st pick in the draft and later traded to the Denver Nuggets, agreed with his former teammate on his assessment of next year’s squad. Vanderbilt wore a boot on his right foot as he prepares for his first professional season.

“It was definitely a competitive nature,” Vanderbilt said. “I feel like they’ve got great pieces that complement each other. This year they got the experience so that will take them a long way.”

Knox, the No. 9 pick by the New York Knicks in the NBA Draft last June, added the return of PJ Washington, Nick Richard, and Quade Green will prove to be beneficial for Kentucky, which lost to Kansas State in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen last year in Atlanta.

“PJ, Quade, Nick, all played a lot of minutes last year,” Knox said. “I think that’s gonna help a lot. Those last two minutes of the game, when it comes down to crunch time, they’ve been in that situation and be able to step up as leaders to help the young guys. We’ve got a lot of good young guys here, so I think as far as having some sophomores on the team, that’s gonna be really well for them.”

Like Knox, Vanderbilt will be pulling for his former teammates next season and likes the team’s chances to compete for a national championship next season.

“I think experience goes a long way,” Vanderbilt said. “Just because they’ve done it, they’re able to lead the young guys. Last year we had to figure it out on our own. We had nobody to look to really. But this year, having a lot of veteran guys, it’ll make it easier for the younger guys because they know the ropes and they know the expectations and how big it is to play at this level. I think it’ll help them out a lot.”

During the draft in Brooklyn, Knox was booed by the New York contingent, but his performance in the NBA Summer League last month persuaded the non-sayers optimism for the future.

“Some of those boos probably turned into cheers,” Knox said. “The fans, you really don’t pay attention to none of that. I’m glad I’ve got them on (my) side.”

Knox added that playing at Kentucky prepared him for what he has been and will be facing in New York.

“Here at Kentucky, playing big-time games all of the time, people watching you on a big stage, that’s kind of what I wanted,” he said. “I’m looking forward to playing in Madison Square Garden.”