TAMPA — As he took warmups on the Raptors court ahead of tipoff Thursday night, it looked like just another game for Knicks forward Kevin Knox.Later, coming off the bench in the first quarter, Knox didn’t take long to make an impact. Knox waited outside the arc as the clock ticked down with just over two minutes to go. Teammate Austin Rivers saw an open Knox and passed him the ball. Seconds later, Knox nailed a 3-pointer from 25 feet and 1:01 later, he swished another from 30.For the first time in his NBA career, Knox played in front of his hometown crowd. His parents, siblings, high school coach and even some former Crusader teammates were all in attendance at Amalie Arena as the Knicks fell 100-83 to the Raptors.“I’m grateful to be here,” Knox said ahead of the game. “It’s a blessing really to play in Tampa and I’ve been looking forward to the game ever since they had the Raptors move here.”Since getting drafted ninth overall in 2018 — making Tampa Bay history as the highest draft pick from the area — the closest Knox has played to home has been in Orlando for Knicks-Magic games.“I think it certainly means a little bit more with him being in Tampa,” Tampa Catholic coach Don Dziagwa said.The Crusaders coach of 30 years and athletic director remembers Knox as a thin, gangly freshman back in 2013-14, but Knox’s drive and ability to become the NBA player he is today were never in question.Knox’s basketball talent took off in between his sophomore and junior years, Dziagwa said. His game jumped from averaging 24.4 points per game to 29.6. He scored 211 more points in his junior year (918 total), too.He also made the 2015 FIBA Americas under-16 national team, which won a silver medal in Argentina, and the 2016 FIBA U-17 world national team, which won a gold medal in Spain. In 2017, Knox was named a McDonald’s All-American and Florida Mr. Basketball.“I think when those types of things happened for him, he realized, ‘Hey, I’m not just a good player in Tampa, I’m a good player nationally and I’m a good player internationally,’” Dziagwa said.Since graduating from Tampa Catholic and spending a year playing for Kentucky — which pegged him for first-team all-SEC and SEC Freshman of the Year — Knox’s Tampa ties have remained steadfast.His family still lives in the area with his father, Kevin Sr., also coaching at Tampa Catholic and his younger brother, Karter, playing for Dziagwa and the Crusaders.“I think (Kevin) really wants to feel like he’s representing Tampa,” Dziagwa said. “It’s not like we’ve had a plethora of NBA players coming out of Tampa, so I think he kind of thinks he’s holding the mantle for all of those younger kids that aspire to be the next Kevin Knox so to speak, to be the next professional player. And he’s handled that really well.”On Wednesday, Knox and his family spent some time together after practice. They ate at Ocean Prime and were able to chat about how much this opportunity means not only to him, but those who have followed his career.“It’s a special time,” Kevin Sr. said. “There may be some fans in the Tampa Bay area that saw him play as a high school senior, All-American that might come to the game and see Kevin Knox play in person. That’s special because they probably would have never been able to see him other than (Thursday night).”And the Knicks forward agreed that would be a pretty cool thing.Against the Raptors, he logged 31:30 minutes — a season high — and scored a team-high 16 points, tying Julius Randle. Knox went 5-of-14 from the field and 2-for-8 from 3-point range.Knox knows moments like this don’t happen often. Out of all of the NBA teams in the league, only six are allowing fans at games right now. And because of the Canadian travel restrictions , the Raptors found a temporary home in Tampa.“There’s no basketball in Tampa, so you don’t really get this opportunity ever really,” Knox said. “This might be the only time it happens, so I’m just really going to go out there and play hard and just take advantage and have fun.” Contact Mari Faiello at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow @faiello_mari .