MILWAUKEE — Derrick Rose, John Wall and Brandon Knight were exceptional guards in college under coach John Calipari for one season — Rose with Memphis and Wall and Knight with Kentucky.
But while Rose and Wall quickly made their marks in the NBA after leaving college — Rose with Chicago and Wall with Washington — Knight is still searching to make his mark. Some NBA officials wonder if he ever will.
Knight begs to differ. Acquired by the Milwaukee Bucks in a multi-player deal with the Detroit Pistons last Wednesday, Knight is extremely confident in his abilities and his potential.
“I know I can play with them because I have already,” Knight said Tuesday following a press conference at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. “I played against John; I played against Derrick and I know I have the talent and the skill set and the physical stature to play with those guys.
“It’s not a question; it’s just a matter of me going out and doing it. And it’s having the opportunity to do so.”
Knight, 21, who already has started 135 games, will be given every opportunity to exhibit his talents with the Bucks.
Bucks coach Larry Drew has already designated Knight his starting point guard. Drew, a former NBA point guard himself, is convinced Knight has the tools to excel.
“What he brings to the table is what a coach looks for, particularly at that position: the speed, the quickness, the ability to make shots, the ability to get into the lane, the ability to make other people better,” Drew said. “For me, it’s important that the point guard is an extension of me because I put a lot on his shoulders.
“I think he’s really good right now and it’s my job for him to get better.”
Let’s just say Drew will have plenty of positive things to work with in Knight, starting with his physical attributes. In many respects, they mirror those of Wall and Rose:
* Wall is 6-foot-4; Rose and Knight are 6-3.
* Wall has an 8-6 wingspan; Rose and Knight each have 6-3 wingspans.
* Rose’s vertical leap is 40 inches; Wall and Knight have 37- and 38-inch verticals, respectively.
* Rose has been timed at 3.05 seconds in a three-quarter court sprint; Rose has been clocked at 3.05 and Knight at 3.07.
Drew also will be working with an exceptionally bright young man. In addition to being the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year in 2008-09 and Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year in 2009-2010 at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Knight also was an exceptional student. He graduated with a 4.3 weighted grade-point average (4.0 scale).
When Knight decided to attend Kentucky, basket weaving wasn’t one of his options for a major.
“I was thinking about majoring in engineering and I thought about architecture, too,” Knight said. “I had a lot of avenues that I could have went down.”
Besides being a smart and physically gifted player, Knight has another trait that is sure to endure him to Drew: a commendable work ethic.
Just ask Khris Middleton, who played with Knight last season in Detroit and is now his teammate in Milwaukee. Middleton witnessed up close Knight’s commitment to being a better basketball player.
“Brandon is an extremely hard worker,” Middleton said. “He’s in the gym 24/7. He’s a non-stop worker. He has one of the best work ethics I have ever seen.”
The Bucks brass witnessed that Tuesday. Early in the morning, Knight was at the team’s practice facility working out before the press conference.
It was an example of how Knight is genuinely excited to be part of the new-look Bucks, who have made wholesale changes this summer.
“I was at the gym (in Fort Lauderdale), about to work out, when I got the news that I had been traded,” said Knight, who averaged 13.3 points and 4 assists last season. “My brother called me first; then my agent called me next and then I heard from the Pistons.
“No hard feelings. I’m happy to be here; I’m excited to be here. It’s a blessing. I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase what I can do.”
* Also Tuesday, Drew acknowledged he has offered the top assistant coaching position to a former NBA coach and is waiting for a response.
Drew wouldn’t reveal the name of the individual or the names of anyone he has interviewed for the position. The Journal Times has learned, though, that Drew has interviewed Jim Cleamons, who has extensive coaching experience including being Phil Jackson’s assistant with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
Drew has also interviewed Dean Demopoulos, another respected longtime coach, who most recently assisted Vinny Del Negro with the Los Angeles Clippers.