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Kevin Knox returns to the community center that taught life lessons

Former Tampa Catholic star and current Knick hangs out with kids at the Riverview Community Center for an annual back to school bash. And, of course, doles out some swag.
Former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox (20) drives past the Pelicans' Javon Bess (41) during an NBA summer league basketball game with the Knicks. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)
Former Tampa Catholic star Kevin Knox (20) drives past the Pelicans' Javon Bess (41) during an NBA summer league basketball game with the Knicks. (AP Photo/Steve Marcus)
Published Aug. 2, 2019

TAMPA — For more than a decade, Kevin Knox would head to his father’s office at the Oaks at Riverview Community Center after school.

The former Tampa Catholic standout, who was taken by the New York Knicks in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft, spent weekday afternoons shooting basketballs on the stiff, unforgiving rims at the center.

But the routine trips also were meant to teach valuable lessons. The elder Knox wanted his son to see single parents who struggled to afford shoes for their children.

Those experiences had a profound effect on Knox, who decided that benevolence was just as important as basketball.

RELATED: Kevin Knox to Knicks makes NBA history locally

On Friday, Knox was back at the Riverview Community Center for its annual back to school bash. He posed for pictures and shook hands with the kids, most of whom spent the day playing games, eating food and dancing.

The event culminated with the children lining up to receive Puma backpacks filled with school supplies, all courtesy of Knox.

“Puma does a really good job with its athletes and providing what we want,” said Knox, who signed with the shoe company last year shortly after getting drafted. “That’s always something I like to do, to give back to the kids.”

This is not the first Knox has dished out Puma swag. As part of his contract, Tampa Catholic gets $10,000 worth of gear from the company for a four-year period that started in 2018.

The Crusaders were able to buy uniforms, travel gear and three new pairs of sneakers for every player on the team.

In addition, Knox paid for all the hotel rooms when the Crusaders travel to play in the Las Vegas Prep Invitational on December of last year.

RELATED: Kevin Knox’s lifelong push for the pros

For Knox, this was a brief trip home. He is heading to Los Angeles on Sunday for a week of pickup games with fellow NBA players. While there, Knox might even get in a few workouts with LeBron James. On Aug. 18, he goes back to New York to start his second NBA season.

This summer, Knox has worked on getting stronger — and more vocal.

It showed in the opening game of the NBA summer league. Knox was assigned to guard rookie sensation Zion Williams when the Knicks squared off with the Pelicans.

The ESPN highlights showed Williamson ripping the ball away from Knox on a rebound, then throwing down a monstrous dunk. But the matchup belonged to Knox, who outscored Williamson 17-11 and had two blocked shots.

“The atmosphere was crazy,” Knox said. “It was like a playoff game. The crowd was screaming. Zion is a great player. He’s young, and he’s going to have a lot of stuff to work on. But he’s very powerful and gets to the rim really well.

“The coaches asked me if I was ready for the challenge, and I said I was. That’s what I worked on all summer. I was ready to play defensively against Zion, somebody that’s a powerful-type player with his athleticism.”

RELATED: Rookie season of mostly highs for Knicks’ Kevin Knox

That opening summer league game also was memorable because it ended in the third quarter after the floor shook from an earthquake.

Knox said he could not feel the tremors, but knew something was wrong when he looked over at the sideline — and in the stands.

“I just saw people start running and screaming,” Knox said. “I thought somebody was in a fight or something. I looked up and I saw the jumbotron and the speakers just shaking. The guys on the sideline said all they could feel was their legs moving from side-to-side.”

Knox’ mother, Michelle, and his younger brother, Kobe, were at that game.

“They could feel it in their legs, too,” Knox said.

In five summer league games, Knox averaged 16.8 points and 5.6 rebounds.

“Overall summer league went well,” Knox said. “I got a lot better.”