Family’s involvement in basketball led Knight to sport

By KEVIN NASHStaff Writer

Growing up, Brandin Knight was the typical little brother.

His older brother, Brevin, played… Growing up, Brandin Knight was the typical little brother.

His older brother, Brevin, played basketball, so he wanted to play too.

“Following my brother to the gym [inspired me to play basketball],” Knight said. “It’s almost like I was born into [basketball].”

Knight was born Dec. 16, 1981, to Melvin and Brenda Knight in Livingston, N.J. The Knight family has a strong background in basketball, as Knight’s father is a coach at Essex County College in New Jersey, and Brevin plays for the Memphis Grizzlies.

“I knew of Brandin because of his family and background. He was born to be a point guard,” head coach Ben Howland said. “His dad was a guard and a coach. He learned how to bounce a ball probably as early as he learned how to walk.”

Knight’s determination came from watching his brother play. Brevin defied the odds as he made it to the National Basketball Association at only 5 feet, 9 inches.

“It’s motivation for me. He’s about 5-foot-9, 180 pounds and people have been doubting him his whole life,” Knight said. “Just seeing him defy the odds is motivation for me.”

As a potential NBA player, Knight will face similar knocks about his size, as he is slightly bigger than his brother at 6-foot, 190 pounds. Knight has been able to overcome his size as he led the Panthers to the Sweet 16 last season.

This season Knight is averaging 10.5 points and 6.3 assists per game. Knight also leads the team in steals with 36.

Growing up, Knight was a fan of Michael Jordan, but the player he liked to follow most was Magic Johnson. He liked how Johnson took control of the team when he was on the floor and, in that way, they are similar.

“Everybody loved Michael, but my favorite player was Magic,” Knight said. “I liked him because of the way he ran the team when he was on the floor. He was not flashy but was one of those guys who could get the job done.”

Like Johnson did with the Lakers, Knight has emerged as the leader of the team.

Knight’s fire and passion for the game rubs off on other players.

“He’s really competitive and is a great leader,” Howland said. “He’s been a great leader both on and off the floor in terms of the unity.”

Following the 2001-2002 season Knight received District Player of the Year, the Big East’s Most Improved Player honors and shared Co-Big East Player of the Year honors with Connecticut’s Caron Butler.

“I think that he has really matured as a player,” Howland said. “He made the big leap from sophomore to junior year in terms of his development.”

Knight is a 1999 graduate of Seton Hall Prep. While attending Seton Hall Prep, Knight led the team to three consecutive Parochial “A” state championships. During that three-year stretch, Seton Hall Prep was 86-6 and was ranked No. 4 nationally by the final USA Today Poll and No. 1 by the New Jersey State Ledger.

“The thing that is interesting and that has helped him is that he has better players around him then he did as a freshman,” Howland said. “I think the thing that was really hard for Brandin when he first got here is that we weren’t very good. He had three state championships in a row in high school, so he never lost.”

As a senior, Knight averaged 12.5 points, 5.9 assists, 4.5 steals and three rebounds per game, but Seton Hall didn’t show much interest. Knight earned several honors following his senior season, which included a selection to the MSG Network/New York Daily News first team and earned him Tri-State All-Star, All-Essex County and All-Iron Hills Conference first team honors.

Despite Knight’s accomplishments and ties to Seton Hall, Pitt showed the most interest in recruiting him. Knight’s mother works at Seton Hall, and his father was an assistant coach under Bill Raftery at Seton Hall for five years, where he also played guard from 1968-1971.

“[Seton Hall] wasn’t exercising recruiting me,” Knight said.

Knight did not want to have to sit out his freshman year, so he decided to go with the team who appeared interested in him.

“I wanted to go to a good situation where I would be able to play right away,” Knight said. “For me that [Seton Hall] wasn’t a good situation. I liked what the coaching staff was doing at the time, and it turned out that [Pitt] was a good place for me to be.”

Knight is currently a history major and does not have a lot of free time, but when he does he is usually involved in video games with fellow teammates and friends.

“He’s a clown; all he does is mess around,” teammate Julius Page said. “He’s a joker; we play video games and mess around. We are just regular off the court. He’s not cocky or anything like that; he is just laid back.”

Knight’s competitive nature has been an asset to Pitt. Players meet him, see him play and want to become Panthers.

“He brings everything [to the team]; he’s our leader. He was cool and that’s one of the reasons that I came here,” Page said. “I wanted to have a good point guard on my team. I didn’t want to just be by myself.”

“Not only because of his ability to play, but because of his great personality,” Howland said. “The kid is a great person off the floor. We have a family atmosphere and it’s because of our players and how they treat each other.”

During the summer, Knight plays pick-up ball at Seton Hall. He also visits his brother and spends time with his daughter.

“[Brevin]’s been like a mentor to me. Obviously he is somebody who raised me in a basketball sense,” Knight said. “I watch the things he does and I mimic him. He’s also helped me with situations in college.”

Leave a comment.