By Rick Bozich
WDRB Sports

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- College basketball fans are the Boy Scouts of the sports world: trustworthy, loyal and kind. Miss a shot, and they’ll cheer louder for you to make the next one.

That’s not the NBA. Ask Kevin Knox.

Knox discovered the difference between playing for the University of Kentucky and NBA about 0.08 seconds after he became a member of the New York Knicks.


That was the response when the Knicks drafted him with the ninth pick ahead of Michael Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges and others.

Knox heard it.

“Yes, I did,” he said.

Knox understood it.

“A lot of people really didn’t get to watch me a lot in college,” Knox said. “I had an OK college season.”

Then Knox changed it by bounding into the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and averaging 21.3 points per game. Knox has become a trendy pick for 2019 NBA Rookie of the Year.

“I think I won a lot of them over,” Knox said. “They actually saw how I played in summer league, and all those boos turned into cheers. It was really fun out there in summer league. I’m happy those fans are on my side.”

Knox and his former UK teammate, Jarred Vanderbilt, worked a youth basketball camp at the MidAmerica Sports Center on Tuesday.

Knox entertained several hundred campers with dunks and also accepted one-on-one challenges. Vanderbilt pulled on an official’s jersey, blew a whistle and moved slower with a protective boot strapped on his surgically repaired right ankle.

The forecast for Vanderbilt’s rookie season in Denver is a cloudy as it was for Vanderbilt’s freshman season at Kentucky.

Injuries limited Vanderbilt to 14 games. He played 238 minutes, roughly a fifth of the time Knox performed. Knox averaged 15.6 points and 5.4 rebounds. Vanderbilt contributed 5.9 points and 7.9 boards, showing enough grit to convince the Nuggets to select him 41st in the second round and sign him to a three-year deal worth $4 million.

Nuggets fans have more reason to question Vanderbilt than Knicks fans have to wonder about Knox. Vanderbilt said he was uncertain when he would be cleared to compete but that he did not expect to miss the entire season.

“Everything is rolling right now,” Vanderbilt said. “Right now, we’re just taking it slow, because it’s the offseason. Just giving it the best possible chance to heal and just preparing.”

In time for the beginning of training camp in several months?

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that soon, but we’re just taking it day by day right now,” Vanderbilt said.

Skepticism about a guy who missed that much time and still has not been cleared to play? That is inevitable. Vanderbilt said he is a more complete player than the defender/rebounder/energy guy label that he was given at Kentucky.

“I feel that I can bring a lot more to the table that I wasn’t necessarily able to display at Kentucky,” he said. “Just play-making, scoring ability and overall just intensity...

“Honestly, I just think we saw a glimpse of me. For one, coming back midseason was tough for anybody, trying to establish a rhythm and a role. I feel like being healthy and being able to play a full season, I’ll be able to display a lot more.”

Knox, meanwhile, goes to a franchise with a new coach (David Fizdale) and the difficult task of trying to compete against the two best young teams in the Eastern Conference: the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers.

Knicks fans routinely boo on Draft Night, because this is a franchise that wasted Carmelo Anthony and Patrick Ewing and has not won an NBA title since 1973.

Knox said he will not live in Manhattan. In fact, he has never been to Manhattan. But he said he believes that playing at Kentucky taught him about the noise.

“Going to Kentucky, being one of the bigger college basketball teams in the country, prepared me for that,” Knox said. “A lot of people told me to stay away from the media or my favorite social media. Don’t get involved in that.

“But I’m really looking forward to the media. I really like to answer questions. I’m really looking forward to playing in Madison Square Garden and enjoying my time in New York.”

That includes competing for Rookie of the Year. Taken ninth in the draft, Knox was listed as the third top contender for the award by one Las Vegas oddsmaker, tied with Duke’s Marvin Bagley Jr., just behind top pick Deandre Ayton and European star Luka Doncic.

“That’s my goal,” he said. “It’s on my mirror. It’s on my wall in my room to be the Rookie of the Year. That’s my big-time goal every rookie’s goal. I’m working hard for it.”

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