Eight days before his regular-season debut as USF men’s basketball coach, Amir Abdur-Rahim already has thrust his program into the final four.
Not the NCAA’s, but Karter Knox’s. As national cachet goes, the latter isn’t far removed from the former.
Earlier this month, the coveted five-star prospect and former Tampa Catholic standout listed the Bulls as one of the last four program’s he is considering. On Tuesday evening, his dad, Kevin, confirmed the Bulls remain in the mix with Kentucky (where older brother Kevin played), Louisville and the NBA G League Ignite, a developmental team in the NBA G League.
In fact, an official visit to USF is being planned, his dad added. The NCAA’s early signing period for basketball begins Nov. 8, though Knox isn’t expected to have a decision by then.
Cue the skepticism among the beleaguered Bulls fan base. Many long-suffering supporters may cite myriad reasons (name, image and likeness disparity, USF’s bleak history, a middling conference, etc.) why Knox never would sign with USF, and view the Bulls’ inclusion on Knox’s list as a token gesture to his brother Kobe, a USF redshirt sophomore.
But give thorough consideration to Knox’s possible thought process, and the notion of him signing with USF seems more plausible than pipe dream.
First, name, image and likeness may not be a significant factor for Knox, who presumably is already making good money this year.
Knox, who would have been entering his senior season at Tampa Catholic, instead is playing for Atlanta-based Overtime Elite, a pro basketball league for 16- to 20-year-olds in which players can opt to play for a six-figure salary or scholarship money to preserve their college eligibility.
Additionally, Overtime Elite is independent of Georgia’s prep sports governing body, which only recently implemented a law allowing its prep student-athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. The opportunities available with Overtime Elite were believed to be the prevailing factor in Knox moving from Florida, which still doesn’t permit prep athletes to profit from name, image and likeness.
“Our family will always be tied and in collusion with Tampa Catholic,” Kevin Knox told the Tampa Bay Times in mid-August. “But what we wanted to do like (any other) individuals, we live in America. Take advantage of the name, image and likeness, and that’s what we were able to do (with Overtime Elite).”
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The financial rewards that Knox ultimately reaps this year conceivably could prompt him to accept a hometown discount of sorts (as it pertains to name, image and likeness money) and attend USF, allowing him the opportunity to play with his older brother. If he were to do that, Knox would be the most celebrated signee in program history.
Currently ESPN’s No. 16 prospect in the Class of 2024, Knox possesses the size (6-foot-5, 180 pounds), sleekness and versatility that has many projecting him to follow his older brother’s route to the NBA as a one-and-done college player.
But the chance of helping bring instant relevance and success to USF, of forging a unique path instead of perpetuating tradition at a blue-blood program elsewhere, might be highly appealing to Knox.
Suddenly, the pipe dream doesn’t seem so preposterous.
Contact Joey Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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