Head of the class
Knight thought he was taking a test, but instead he joins select company
Brandon Knight had an inkling that he was in the running for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award, but the 6-foot-3 point guard from Fort Lauderdale (Fla.)/Pine Crest never expected to find out Tuesday morning in, of all places, the classroom.
"I thought we were taking a test during second period [modern American history], but suddenly we had a guest lecturer, and cameras were taping it," he said. "I thought the cameras were taping a promotional piece for the school and Alonzo [Mourning] was a guest lecturer."
When Mourning, a former NBA All-Star and the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 1988, spoke about the globalization of basketball and the attributes of great individual play, Knight figured something was up.
"It was great; I was surprised," he said.
Knight joined select company with the announcement. He became basketball's fourth student-athlete to claim back-to-back national honors. LeBron James, Greg Oden and Candace Parker (girls' basketball in 2003 and '04) are other two-time winners of the award for basketball. Six honorees have won multiple national awards in the 25-year history of the program, which recognizes superior high school student-athletes in 10 sports.
"They tell me it's tough to win this award once, let alone twice," he said. "Winning it twice puts me in select company for sure, but it pushes me even harder to succeed."
Bruce Weber, the founder of the Gatorade national athlete of the year program, which began in 1985, said Knight possesses excellence in all three pillars -- academics, athletics and character -- that embody a Gatorade national winner.
"He's a terrific player, but really a more outstanding young man," he said. "Think of it: We've had Hall of Fame players, All-Americans and all-stars in the program, but so few multiple winners of the national award. It takes a special person to do it."
And Knight is definitely something special.
Earlier this month he become Florida's first repeat boys' winner and was named the Daily Farmer's Florida Class 3A player of the year.
This season he averaged 31.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4 assists as Pine Crest (25-5) fell in the state tournament final after winning the previous two state titles. He finished his career as Broward County's all-time leading scorer with 3,515 points (second all-time in Florida). He was a finalist for the 2010 Naismith Award.
Though he's undecided on college, Knight has whittled down his list of suitors to Syracuse, Kentucky, Connecticut, Florida and Kansas. He is expected to make a decision in April.
"Knowing Brandon and how he operates, it'll be a methodical process," Pine Crest coach David Beckerman said.
When enters college, Knight says, he'll have earned 21 credit hours, thanks to a demanding college-preparatory schedule at Pine Crest, where he maintains an eye-popping 4.3 weighted grade point average (on a 4.0 scale).
Knight also has been selected to play in three prominent high school all-star events this spring: the McDonald's All-America Game, the Nike Hoop Summit and the Jordan Brand Classic.
He'll have stiff competition for Florida's Mr. Basketball, with the five other class winners, namely 6-9 Patric Young of Providence School (Jacksonville) and 6-5 junior guard Austin Rivers of Winter Park.
Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today.