June 28, 2011

Knox will be a Titan

Kevin McCarthy

Faith is an component not generally associated with basketball, at least not beyond a victorious player proclaiming thanks to the Almighty for the W. But there are other elements of the five-letter f-word that do relate to both an individual and his teammates. Such as a point guard must believe he will be successful in order to be, and that his four court colleagues must share such a conviction. This leads into the fascinating and informative tale of Las Positas College (LPC) backcourter Jordan Knox.

photo of Jordan Knox

Knox came out of Heritage High two years ago and decided to cast his educational and basketball lot with the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. After one season, the right fit seemed absent and a decision loomed: stay in The City or determine another option. Despite parting with a full ride scholarship, Knox eventually selected the latter and eventually re-settled at Las Positas College in Livermore.

As Knox described that period of time, "It was really, really tough. It was like listening to a GPS System in a car, and it keeps saying "rerouting, rerouting," and you start to wonder if you’re lost and how long is going to take you to get back on track."

"I kept my faith and held my head high," Knox explained, leaving out the-nose-to-the-grindstone portion.

At LPC, it was exclusively a two-part life for Knox. Monastic some might call it, consisting of participating in Coach Tony Costello’s basketball program and also diving into an academic workload of earning 40+ transfer credits and an A.A. degree in a nine-month period of time.

The hoops segment went well: Knox earned the starting job at the point and Costello’s squad went 16-13 overall. The season ended with a 73-63 loss to Yuba College in the North Regional playoffs.

The academics portion was grueling, amply evidenced by Knox taking 24 units in his second semester -- this while participating in basketball! The Herculean load was due to some of Knox’ Academy of Art credits not translating into what Las Positas required in order to earn a degree. The latter element was required per NCAA regulations if Knox wished to transfer to a D-1 school.

There were days at Las Positas that Knox didn’t bother attempting to return home to Brentwood. As he described it, "I had a Thursday night science lab class that ended at 9:45 p.m., and an early Friday morning class that started at 9:00 a.m. So I stayed with Tim Thomas’ family (the Las Positas starting center), instead of driving on Vasco Road tired and late at night. While at Tim’s family’s house I basically ate, studied, slept, and got up the next morning to go to class."

"Jordan’s work ethic both on the court and especially in the classroom will make him successful," Costello said. "We are happy for him and wish him well. His parents should be very proud, as they were a huge reason he has accomplished so much."

Knox also lauds Costello for the effort his basketball coach put into making those large number of units possible. Students aren’t usually allowed to enroll in such a high number of classes and special permission is required in order to do so. Costello went to bat (to mix sports metaphors) for his sophomore and Knox rewarded such faith (there’s that word again).

Not only did Knox pass his classes, earning an A.A. in Liberal Arts and Communications, he did so with a 3.5 grade point average. This was the proverbial neon flashing light telling everyone, especially D-1 college coaches, that ‘I can be counted on.’

Then the focus turned towards wanting to play point guard for a D-1 college basketball team.

Coach Costello told him about a showcase event in southern California for unsigned junior college sophomores and Knox signed up as a participant.

It was here again that Knox displayed the maturity and wisdom lacking in many of those decades beyond his age -- he devised a plan. It began with a question, that being ‘what do I need to do to stand out?’ There would be as many if not more college coaches attending as players so what would get him noticed, particularly with a positive association?

"My mindset was to be different -- that was my main approach," Knox explained. "Plenty of the other guys would be looking to shoot and ballhog like the camps where players just go one-on-one and do crazy things. I would do the fundamentals, show off my point guard skills, get my teammates involved and play lockdown defense."

Once at the site, it turned out there would be simultaneous games going on parallel courts, making it even harder for someone to catch the eyes of recruiters.

But Knox stuck with his strategy. In a gymnasium with participants non-verbally screaming ‘look at me, look at me, look at me,’ he played the role of what a coach traditionally desires, especially from someone manning the point.

For one, Cal State Fullerton Head Coach Bob Burton noticed.

Thus began the ‘becoming a Titan’ process for Knox.

"Coach [Andy] Newman was the one who handled most of the phone calls and he came up to watch me work out," Knox offered, adding "he said it was a steal they could get me."

Cal State Fullerton is a member of the Big West Conference along with newcomer Hawaii (in one more season), Cal Poly, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, Pacific, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara.

He’ll be matched up again with former opponents like Chris McNealy of San Ramon Valley High/UC Irvine, Vinnie McGhee of McClymonds.High/Cal State Northridge, Eddie Miller of Antioch High/UC Davis, Kareem Nitoto of San Leandro High/UC Riverside, Will Brew of St. Mary’s High/UCSB and others. Plus, there is the situation of teammate Tim Thomas who signed with Pacific, resulting in the probability of some ‘brother versus brother’ battles when Knox enters the paint during Pacific - Fullerton games.

Here’s Team 94 coach and basketball trainer Phil Handy on Knox: "I am very proud of Jordan as he has put in a lot of work on and off the court. He was very determined to get to a D-1 program and Fullerton has picked up a good player. This kid took 24 units in one semester to complete his AA degree -- that’s not something you see every day. I have really enjoyed working with him and watching him develop over the past few years and I am excited he has this opportunity."

Coach and trainer Richard Morton, the former San Francisco prep great and Cal State Fullerton star, offered "Jordan is a great kid who wanted to get better and worked hard on his drills. He comes from a very good family background with parents looking out for him not just in basketball but academics and life."

Knox was generous to those around him, in particular Coach Costello, regarding his achievement. "A big part in making this happen was him putting my name out there. He put in a good word for me and has an excellent relationship with the Fullerton coaches."

He also thanked "first, God, then my parents who have been there for everything since I was born, Phil Handy, and Rich Morton."

As for counsel to those entering the recruiting process, Knox said, "the best advice is to be patient as everyone is in a rush but they need to take their time and weigh out the options. The second piece of advice is to treat your academic transcript like it’s your credit report. If you take care of it, it will take care of you. Finally, don’t get discouraged, just keep working hard and when it’s your turn to shine in front of coaches don’t just start jacking up shot after shot, find your own way to stand out from the crowd."

On the day of our talk, Knox had just returned from a summer internship interview. He’s looking to major in Business Administration and wants to get a jump on the experience that will help him come graduation.

When you think of the old Issac Hayes song “Shaft,” you can’t help but change the title to “Knox.”. For “who is the man who works his plan like no other man? ’Knox!’”

He’s a man with a plan who faithfully sticks to it and fruitfully so.