By LARRY VAUGHT
After a Yahoo Sports Friday included Kevin Knox’s name as a player who had apparently had lunch/dinner with an agent, the Kentucky freshman’s status for Saturday night’s game against Missouri was not immediately known.
Kevin Knox Sr. immediately denied the report and UK officials spent most of Friday on a fact-finding mission.
Hours before Saturday night’s game, UK issued a statement that said “based on the available information, determined that there were no eligibility issues or rules violations for any current student-athletes or staff related to Friday’s report. Kentucky will continue to work diligently with both the NCAA and the Southeastern Conference.”
Knox got in early foul trouble Saturday but played like a player with no worries about any FBI probe or NCAA investigation. He had 16 of his 21 points in the second half of UK’s 87-66 win. It was his second straight game with 20 plus points.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said he let university officials deal with the published report.
“I wasn’t involved in any way. But I felt good about it,” he said.
Knox said he had no trouble sleeping Friday night because he knew he was going to play even though he would not confirm if he met with UK officials about the issue. He said a UK compliance member told him Saturday morning he could play against Missouri.
“I just came out tonight aggressive, and it was just good to be on the court,” the UK freshman said.
Knox knew nothing about the Yahoo story until Friday morning when he woke up and his dad called him.
“He just told me to make sure that I’m focused. … And that’s what I did,” Knox said. “I didn’t focus on nothing that was going on (off the court). I just stuck to working out and making sure I got ready for the game.
“With everything going on it has been a good week, just been blocking everything out. I had two good days of practice before this game. I let Kentucky and let the compliance (department) handle all of that. I was just focused on my game, focused on my teammates and just getting this win.”
He would not comment on whether he met with Christian Dawkins, part of agent Andy Miller’s staff, in Tampa as the Yahoo story alleged (it’s not against NCAA rules for a player to meet with an agent or have lunch/dinner as long as the player pays for his own meal).
“I’m not here to talk about that. I’m here to talk about the win tonight,” Knox, who was 6-for-13 from the field and 8-for-8 at the foul line against Missouri, said. “A big win over Missouri.”
Knox’s father was at Saturday night’s game just like he is most UK games. Kentucky also made Knox available after the game as one of three players to talk about the game after not allowing any players to speak to the media at Friday’s media availability.
Knox said his father told him to focus on his game — and that’s what he did.
“I was never nervous. I trusted Kentucky, trusted the media [relations] people, trusted compliance, let them handle all of it,” the UK freshman said.
Knox said Calipari told him not to “talk to nobody about nothing” after the report came out.
“He said to get in the gym and, ‘Work all this out. Don’t focus on none of it. Talk to your teammates. Focus on your teammates. Focus on the film,’” Knox said. “That is just what Cal trained me for and my dad trained me for in life, just to block everything out, all the negative stuff, and just be able to play my game.
“Tonight, like I said, I had two good games of practice and I wasn’t really focused on anything else that was going on.”
Kentucky has rebounded from a four-game losing streak to win three in a row. The Cats have a home game Wednesday with Ole Miss and close regular-season play Saturday at Florida.
Calipari liked the patience Knox displayed in the second half after sitting out much of the first half. It was just another step in his learning process.
“It’s amazing in the last three weeks how much he’s learned to read screens, to where he can bump two to get shots. How he can get in the middle, where he can find PJ, which he did on the baseline,” Calipari said.