Preston Knowles of Louisville Proving the Doubters Wrong
Immature, loose cannon, undisciplined, hot-tempered, unreachable...
Add in the fact that the kid was never a factor in the end-all and be-all of college basketball recruiting, the AAU summer circuit, and the coach of any major Division I school would be crazy to take a chance on this kid.
Crazy like a fox.
Preston Knowles has not only proved that the adjectives above don't apply to him or his game, but he's quickly becoming one of the most consistent players on Louisville's roster this season.
Saturday afternoon, when the Cardinals were struggling in what could generously be described as a lackluster first 30 minutes against Austin Peay, it was none other than Knowles who provided the spark off the bench, leading to a 19-point Cardinal victory.
Preston Knowles, the darling of Internet message board posters; the media's perfect idea of a throwback, hardworking, blue-collar star; the kid who (to paraphrase Pete Rose) would walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play the game; this same kid was unknown to most recruiting gurus and trouble to those who did know him.
In high school the former George Rogers Clark [County] High School star was largely viewed by those who cover basketball in Central Kentucky as a good player with a bad attitude. Stories of his temper tantrums and immaturity would follow him even after his high school career ended.
There were the technical fouls, the run-ins with his high school coach Scott Humphrey, and his being sent home a day before the annual Kentucky-Indiana All-Star game in Indianapolis for a curfew violation.
Critics (mostly those inside and outside of the media who bled blue) murmured that Pitino had another Derrick Caracter on his hands.
The critics were wrong.
During his senior season in high school, something turned on for the kid and transformed the troubled, temperamental Preston Knowles into the player we see today.
In place of immaturity came leadership; in place of a perceived lack of discipline came one of the hardest working players in the state; the loose cannon became a player who outplayed Mason County's all-everything star Darius Miller in the 10th region finals, and college coaches began to take notice.
One week later at the Sweet 16, when the state's sports media was focused on Scott County's Indiana signee Bud Mackey—the right kid at the right program (who would face real legal troubles a few months later)—it was the lightly recruited "headcase" who began turning heads.
To that point, the biggest school recruiting Knowles was Virginia Commonwealth. However, soon enough John Brady and Bob Huggins started calling, and then a coach with a history of reclamation projects invited Knowles on a visit.
The story is now legendary that while Rick Pitino was weighing the pros and cons of offering one of only two scholarships in his class to an unranked two-star, rural Kentucky kid with a bad reputation, his future teammates had other ideas and lobbied Pitino to sign Preston who?
The same Preston Knowles who limited Kentucky gunner Joe Crawford to only one field goal attempt when matched up against the All-American last season; the same Knowles who thoroughly shut down Syracuse's trash-talking Burger Boy Jonny Flynn; the same Knowles who after a 21-point effort that saw him shoot 4-5 from behind the arc is now becoming an offensive threat.
Over the past two seasons Preston Knowles has been on what seems like a crusade: a crusade to shut down everybody he guards, a crusade to quickly become the emotional leader of a top 10 team, and in particular a crusade to prove the doubters wrong.
Not bad for a lightly recruited headcase.
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