Q-and-A with Kentucky’s Brandon Knight

LEXINGTON, Ky. – When he wasn’t on the basketball court, Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight spent a large part of his childhood watching movies with his father, Ephrem.

Horror films, to be exact.

“A lot of parents may not want their young kids watching that kind of stuff,” Knight said. “But my dad didn’t have a problem with it because he knew I could handle it.”

“Silence of the Lambs,” “Friday the 13th,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street?” None of them ever frightened a young Brandon Knight?

Brandon Knight has taken on the point guard task in Lexington with aplomb.

“Nope,” he said. “I actually used to laugh at a lot of that stuff. I really can’t think of very many things I’m afraid of.”

Perhaps that explains why Knight has handled the daunting task of replacing All-American John Wall with such fearlessness.

A 6-foot-3 freshman, Knight is averaging 17.5 points and 3.5 assists for the No. 13 Wildcats, who will take a 9-2 record into Tuesday’s game against Coppin State.

Knight – the No. 6-ranked player in the Class of 2010 by Rivals.com – recently sat down for an interview with Yahoo! Sports.

Q: Virtually every top school in the nation wanted you to play for their team. How hard did that make the recruiting process?

A: “It was tough. You want to make a decision that’s right for yourself and right for your future. I started the process late, so it made it even tougher. But once I sat down with my family and looked at different situations, it become clear where I should be.”

Q: What pushed Kentucky over the edge?

A: “Just all of the good things that were happening here. My main goal as a player was to get better. I saw that happening here more than any other place. Different things were happening at other places that made me think, ‘OK, maybe I shouldn’t go there.’ But at Kentucky, everyone was getting better. That was my main goal. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Q: What do you remember the most about John Calipari’s visit to your home?

A: “What I remember the most is just being able to connect with him. It didn’t seem like he was telling me lies. He was straightforward. What he envisioned was the same thing I envisioned, which was us having a great season and all of our players getting better as individuals. It was like a friend coming to visit. It didn’t feel like a business setting.”

Q: Even though you said yes to Kentucky, I know you developed a strong relationship with other coaches who recruited you, correct?

A: “Yes, my mom even had a chalkboard in our house, and every coach that came in there signed it. If they wanted to, they could write some words of wisdom on it, as well. It’s still there today in our kitchen.”

Q: Everyone always talks about Kentucky’s strong fan support. What were the fans like when you came to Lexington for the first time?

A: “When I got here, the fans were crazy. We went to a football game and people there were chanting my name. I’ll always remember that. But I’m not really an attention guy. If I don’t have the attention, I’m fine with that, so that isn’t really what captured me. What captured me was the coaching staff. Coach Orlando (Antigua) had recruited me since the ninth grade. And I had talked to Coach Cal a lot during my recruitment. That’s what captured me the most.”

Q: When did you realize you had a gift when it came to basketball?

A: “When I was in elementary school, my will to compete stood out. It wasn’t that I was just better than everyone skill-wise. I just always wanted to win more. When you see a kid diving on the floor in elementary school or running back and playing defense … that says something. I just had so much energy. I did whatever it took to win. I was mad if I lost at anything.”

Q: Where did you get that will to compete?

Knight and coach John Calipari have clicked from the jump.

A: “My dad. He always talked about giving 100 percent. Whenever I lost I felt like, ‘You didn’t win because you didn’t give 100 percent.’ That was always my mindset. So I would be really disappointed if I lost.”

Q: How tough on you were your parents?

A: “They weren’t overbearing, but there was a lot of criticism. A lot of ‘You should have done this’ or ‘You should have done that.’ My dad criticized me a lot, but he also told me when I played well. It wasn’t always negative. As I started to grow and mature, he started to ease up because I eventually started to know a little bit more than he did about the game.”

Q: Do you like the attention that comes along with being a Kentucky basketball player?

A: “It doesn’t make me uncomfortable because I knew it was going to be a part of it. But sometimes I might try to avoid it. Some guys love attention and feed off of it. My dad always told me, ‘You don’t have to speak or talk trash. Let your game speak for itself. People will understand how serious you are through how you play.’”

Q: What did your predecessor, John Wall, tell you about Kentucky?

A: “John basically told me it was the place to be. I’m sure he told me that because of what he was experiencing here as far as getting better. He told me himself that working with Coach (Rod) Strickland and Coach Cal and the whole staff … ultimately, he said that’s what got him better. That’s what I wanted to hear.”

Q: How heavy is the pressure to live up to what John Wall did last season?

A: “I’ve always been expected to do well. This isn’t that different for me. If you just play your role and do what you have to do, things will fall into place. I don’t feel like I have to live up to anyone’s expectations. As long as I’m getting better and we’re doing what we need to do as a team, that’s all that matters.”

Q: What are the biggest differences between you and John Wall?

A: “The difference is that I think I can shoot the ball a little bit better than he can. He’s more of a driving-type guy. In high school I relied on my jump shot a lot. He’s so much faster than everyone, he can get to the basket and score anytime he wants. But I know he’s working on his jump shot a lot. And with Coach Cal, I’m being forced to work on my speed.”

Q: How is that coming along?

A: “I’m a fast guy, but I’ve never been molded to play that fast the whole game. It’s a mindframe, and John already had that mindframe when he came here. Me being more of a jump shooter, I didn’t know how to play that fast all the time.”

Q: How did growing up in Fort Lauderdale help your development?

A: “You’re always playing against good athletes. Even though they may not be that great skill-wise, they’re gifted athletically. You’re going against guys that are quick and fast.”

Q: How has Coach Calipari treated you since you arrived on campus?

A: “He’s a coach that’s on you, but it’s always in your best interest. You never feel like he’s picking on you. He might be loud, but he’s not angry. He’s just trying to get his point across.”

Q: How big of a distraction has the Enes Kanter situation been to this team?

A: “We all have his back. No matter what happens, he’s always going to be part of our family. With him or without him, our goal is still the same. There are always going to be things surrounding this program, especially, just because it’s Kentucky and we’re always under the spotlight. We’ve got one of the best coaches in America, so people are taking shots just trying to find something. While adversity swirls, we’re going to stay focused.”

Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Dec 26, 2010