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Kentucky's Calipari sees a lot of Stockton in ex-Wildcats' Knight

Published June 18, 2011 1:01 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari discusses former Wildcats point guard Brandon Knight.Calipari on Knight's best attributes: Well, there are a couple of things there. Kevin and the guys there know that he wants to play for an organization like Utah. This kid's a straight-A student. A 4.0 his entire life. Sixty college credits, because he transferred in 23. Sixty college credits after one year, and he wants to come back and finish up — which he will, because I just know how he is. From beginning to end of the year, he just got better and better and better. What's amazing for Utah is, he's a lot like a John Stockton. In that, hey, you may have a guy right now — Stockton didn't start right away. And what you have is a young man who would be with you for a while, you know what I mean? The biggest thing I can tell you, I've never been around — yeah, I've been around some that have worked as hard as him — but none of them have worked harder, and whatever you think he's going to become, he's going to become. A lot of players in the draft you say, 'Potentially, this guy could be this, that and the other, but we have no idea whether he'll be that.' Well, with Brandon, whatever you think he's going to become, he'll become. I just think over three years, you're going to say 'Wow.' Whoever he gets him. Over a three-year period, you'll say 'Wow.' Terrific shooter. And you know shooting makes up for a multitude of sins. He can flat out make shots. He's bigger than you think. He's more athletic. He's got speed — a little bit like Tony Parker speed, where he can take it right at you and speed the game up a little bit. I'm sold on him. I know he's either going to go three, four, five. And whoever gets him is lucky. Utah was built on guys like him; so was San Antonio, you know what I'm saying? The best thing that's happened for the league right now is some of the better players are all — you know, Derrick Rose, even Dirk, they're just nice kids that want to get better and want to win. Even if you look in the championship, and you look at Wade and you look at Bosh and you look at those guys, and you look at LeBron — good guys. You may like them or you may not like them, but they're good people. Comparing Knight to the best point guards he's coached: He's right there. I've had four of them, and two of them took my teams to Final Fours. One of them's playing in Chicago, and Brandon's the other. And I'll be honest with you, the team I had in Memphis was a better team, a more talented team and a deeper team. We played six guys last year. … But they're all different. You can't say, 'Well, what's he like with Derrick, or what's he like with Tyreke?' They all have different strengths, they all have different weaknesses. John Wall and Tyreke, they're all different. Here's the other thing that sets him apart: He wants to make game-winners. But more importantly, he's not afraid to miss a game-winner. And you know in that league, how many times do you come down to the last two possessions? And then how many guys want the ball, and how many guys don't want it? I was in that league — not everybody wants the ball. Some guys, they're jumping in cracks trying to hide. And then there are others that become the valuable guys, because they do want it late; they want that ball; they want to make that play. Because they're not afraid. He's not afraid to miss that shot.True point guard or combo guard who shoots very well: They try to say that, is Tyreke a true point? You had John Wall, who they tried to say that about. Derrick early on, they were trying to say, 'Well, I don't know if he's really a point?' We're in the Garden, and that's Dicky V., going crazy on me. And I'm like, 'What?' [Laughs] But he's a terrific player. He's a leader. He's the lead guard who can run your team, can make shots, great in the locker room, really intelligent. You know how they do the meetings and the psychological? After they do that with him, you want him.Basketball intelligence: Oh yeah. But what he does is, he'll break down what he's doing, and then he changes it to get it right. Aw, man: he'll get it right. And what would happen is, they'd be coming back from a road trip, and the dude would go right back to the practice facility and say, 'I got to get this down,' whatever it may be. He was in the gym at 11 o'clock at night. For my best players, that was the case. I'd be coming off the road, it's 11 o'clock at night, I'd stop in my office, I'd look in the practice facility and all of a sudden I'm seeing a ball bounce. 'Who's that?' Well, that was Derrick Rose, that was Tyreke, that was John Wall, that was Brandon Knight. Those guys were all the same that way.Struggles going to his left: Well, here's the two things. When I tell you his skill level is just going to get better and better and better. And the one thing I'll tell you, what you find out is, with shooting when I was in the league — well, I'll give you an example: Tracy McGrady. I had him in, he was in high school. I had him in three times — I may have brought him in three times, because I was going to pick him. And he didn't make any shots — he didn't make free throws. By the time he left the league, if he was open, it was a knock-down shot. So shooting, whether it was Bird, whether it was Magic, even Jordan — that kind of stuff, what the hardest thing to judge is heart. The kind of mind he is. What are we adding to our locker room? What are we truly adding to our team, and what are we about? Everything. The biggest thing I can tell you, there are a lot of players out there — well, there's two things. If you're undersized, you're not going to have the same kind of success you think in that league. You can't. So if you're undersized in your position — I don't care what it is. And undersized means, you can only be 6-7, but you play 6-10. OK. There are guys like that. But you're talking about a kid that will play bigger than his size, and you're talking about a kid that the whole organization and everybody in the city will want to be around. You just say, 'Wow.' And again, he'll remind you of a Stockton now. I'm not trying to put pressure on him or anything like that. I'm just telling you he's the same. 'How do I get better?' 'How do I' — I'll tell you a great story about John Stockton. We were up 20 at half. We were playing Utah when I was at New Jersey. And I walk out at halftime and he grabs somebody around the shirt, and I looked at my staff and I said, 'We're in trouble.' And we were, and we lost. That was John. It was more than just making shots. Because when you look at him physically, you're saying, 'How in the world did he play that long? And how in the world did he play that well?' Well, if he was open, the ball went down. And if a guy was open, he got him the ball. He fought like crazy. Forget about his size. Will he fight? Does he player bigger than his size? What's his competitive spirit? That's all that intangible stuff.Brian T. SmithTwitter: @tribjazzfacebook.com/tribjazz