The University of Kentucky has produced as much NBA talent or more than any other school during the years of one-and-done players, but John Calipari’s top assistant coach, Kenny Payne, molded Kevin Knox into the next Kevin Durant.
Knox is a 6-foot-9, 212-pound forward who fits right into the NBA’s modern small forward, a step Payne knew the then-college-freshman would have to take eventually after his year was up.
Payne showed him a 45-minute curated reel of Durant’s plays, which he arranged just for him. Payne gave Knox the DVD and told him to watch the clips every night before he went to bed — all 35 snippets.
“That’s the person he wants to emulate,” Payne told Marc Berman of The New York Post. “So here’s what Durant does, and here is your package. Not that he’s Kevin Durant, but he can be in that vein. I told him this should be your staple of what you’re trying to get to. There may never be another Kevin Durant, but I told him there are things he does that are similar to you to take and learn from him. Because he’s ultra-talented and a ball of clay waiting for somebody to form him.”
The Knicks are hoping that ball of clay can mold into an useful partnership with star Kristaps Porzingis, but meanwhile, he’ll have to do some shaping of his own.
“This is a unique situation for the Knicks,” said Payne. “You’re literally being handed a ball of clay that is so talented, and you can mold that clay into whatever you want it to be.”
Knox impressed with his shooting ability as well as his athleticism, jumping from a top-of-the-board selection into the top-10, selected with the ninth overall pick by New York.
In terms of what he needs to improve on, Payne was ultimately transparent with the steps his former player needs to take to get on the next level.
“He has to understand his length,” Payne said. “When you’re long and athletic like he is, you have to use your length as your advantage. If a guy makes a living shooting over a guy 6-9, 30-plus-inch vertical and 7-something wingspan, that’s a hard way to make a living.
He’s long. He has to learn to sit down in the stance, move his feet, don’t go for head fakes and don’t let the offensive player get in your body. His length is his saving grace. He has to learn all of that.”