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Coveted basketball recruit Kevin Knox in no hurry to decide future

Tampa Catholic senior Kevin Knox usually rises above his competition. He is one of the top small forwards in the country.
Tampa Catholic senior Kevin Knox usually rises above his competition. He is one of the top small forwards in the country.
Published Dec. 17, 2016

TAMPA — In less than two weeks, Tampa Catholic travels to Raleigh, N.C., to play in the John Wall Holiday Invitational, a prestigious tournament that features some of the best high school basketball teams in the country.

The tournament directors did everything they could to land the Crusaders for the three-day event (Dec. 27-30), taking care of airfare, nine hotel rooms and all meals.

The red-carpet treatment will continue once Tampa Catholic (4-1 entering this weekend) arrives. The Crusaders are holding practices in two iconic college arenas — North Carolina's Dean Smith Center and Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. The directors even tweaked the Crusaders' tournament schedule so they could attend the Tar Heels' home game against Monmouth on Dec. 28.

This courtship has everything to do with Kevin Knox, a Tampa Catholic senior who is one of the most coveted recruits in the country.

"Let's be honest," Crusaders coach Don Dziagwa said. "Everyone wants us to play in their tournaments because Kevin is that big of a draw."

Knox, a 6-foot-8 senior, is the state's top-ranked prospect and the nation's second-best small forward in the class of 2017, according to ESPN. He has whittled his list of 20 major Division I-A offers to a top five that includes Duke, Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Of ESPN's top 25 seniors, 15 have already signed with schools. Knox is opting to wait until mid-March before announcing his commitment.

"A lot of people decided to commit early so they don't have to deal with all that stress," said Knox, who is averaging 27.2 points and 12 rebounds per game. "But I think it's best for me to take my visits, take my time and wait until the end of the season to make my decision. My parents and I realized we don't have to rush this process."

Knox lives in a world of possibilities and is keeping himself open to all of them. Among the things Knox is considering is whether to play college basketball for four years or head to the NBA after one season.

He is not making this decision alone. Knox's family is heavily involved in the process. His father, Kevin Knox, was a highly touted football prospect who played for FSU in the early 1990s.

"I've tried to be there to give Kevin advice," said Knox's father. "We've gone over bullet points so he has a platform in order to make an informed college decision."

The Knox family has already hosted college coaching royalty during in-home visits. That was not enough. They want to attend games so they can analyze the system, the personnel and the coaching style with each program.

"The plan was to wait was so Kevin can see everything," Knox's father said. "He can look at the personnel. Which players are leaving or coming back. Same with the coaches. You don't know that until the end of the season.

"It also gives him an opportunity to watch how Coach (Mike) Krzyzewski coaches and coach Roy Williams does things. All those things are good factors."

Another decision Knox had to make was whether to play for Tampa Catholic this season. There was not much left to prove at the high school level. His future at the next level is set. Because of that he considered playing for a basketball academy such as Montverde Academy or IMG in Bradenton to get ready for college.

Ultimately, Knox chose to remain a Crusader to play with his younger brother, Kobe, a freshman. Knox also wanted to help Tampa Catholic win a state title, something that has eluded him during his high school career.

"I thought about it the whole summer," Knox said. "If I had won a state title in my first three years maybe that would have changed things. But that's something I really want to do."

Knox spread out his visits so he would not miss a practice or game this season.

To be ready for the playoffs, the Crusaders have loaded their schedule with tough games. That is a big reason they are playing in the John Wall Invitational.

Knox became an even bigger attraction for tournament organizers in Raleigh because he has Duke and North Carolina among his top choices. Knox already is used to the measures people will go to land him. Duke, for example, had a Cadillac Escalade take him to the airport during his official visit in November.

The star treatment is like father, like son. When Knox's dad was a top football recruit, he said former Florida coach Galen Hall sent a private plane to pick him up during one of his recruiting trips, and former FSU star Deion Sanders showed him around the Tallahassee campus.

Even though Knox is fawned over during this drawn-out sweepstakes, his parents try to keep him grounded.

"Kevin still has to do chores," his father said. "He has to take out the trash. He has to clean his room. He has to do the dishes, cook his own food, do the laundry and iron his clothes. At the end of the day, you still have to teach the kid how to be a grown man.

"This is what he'll need in college, even if he wasn't playing basketball. We're just laying the foundation."

Contact Bob Putnam at bputnam@tampabay.com. Follow @BobbyHomeTeam.

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