Jacob Wiley has added another impressive highlight to his showreel this season – dunking on one of the best defenders in the competition.
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Sunday morning in the world of New York City basketball change was afoot. The Knicks’ newest starlet, who had up until this point been struggling night in and night out, lit up against one of the NBA’s best franchises.
Merely days beforehand, Kevin Knox – the 19-year-old 2018 first round draft pick out of Kentucky – was publicly torn down by an article published in the New York Post, regarding the lacklustre start to his NBA career. The article was essentially a burn book of Knox and fellow teammate Frank Nitlikina with criticism flowing in from NBA execs and scouts, with at least one labelling him as “soft”.
But the very next chance he was given to take the floor, a Saturday night home game at the garden against the rampaging league leading scoring Milwaukee Bucks, Knox showed that he was anything but.
A serviceable first half from the rook was then turned into a monster game as he and Emmanuel Mudiay took over the contest in the last quarter, managing to drag the game to OT despite being down by 14 points with a mere six minutes remaining on the clock.
His 26 points (13 in Q4) combined with four rebounds, four assists and one steal over 37 minutes of play was absolutely the biggest contributing factor to the Knicks knocking off the Bucks. Perhaps where fans and Knox himself can derive the most confidence from, was the fact that he played 37 minutes including the whole overtime period, which shows an unwavering amount of support from coach David Fizdale.
Senior teammates like Tim Hardaway Jr were thrilled with what they had seen, with Hardaway stating “We weren’t backing off of this kid, and he came in to work, he came to practice, every single day, got there early, stays late, puts up extra shots, asks questions. Coach got on him a little bit, but he took it to heart and turned it from a negative thing into a positive thing. That’s what this is all about. That is how you grow up in the NBA”.
If senior teammates layering on praise didn’t get fans excited perhaps even more impressive than anything else for a Knicks fan is that they learnt something pretty cool about their young starlet, and that is that he’ll be a leader.
Not many 19-year olds could play professional sports in a market like New York be and be torn down, have more and more demanded of you and then through it all rise above it in such emphatic fashion.
Many before him have and many after him will crumble under the weight of heavy criticism and while he is not yet removed from the baptism of fire, he has poked his head above the surface.
Only the belief he has in himself will continue to drive him forward and its performances like Saturday nights (New York time) that will enhance that belief. Kevin is one to watch, the ride isn’t always smooth but this will be a fun one.