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Position in draft too good for Knight to pass up

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4718929.jpegVideo of Knight news conference

The taste of the Final Four, the idea of playing with next year's signing class and the dream of finishing his degree were tempting for Brandon Knight as he mulled his NBA Draft decision, so much so that Knight says he "strongly considered" returning next year.

Ultimately, though, the opportunity to be a top-10 pick in the draft was too much for Knight to pass up. On Friday, in a decision that most people saw coming, Knight announced that he is foregoing his sophomore season and will keep his name in this year's NBA Draft.

"Just knowing that we were so close this year, that's something I would like to come back and compete for, a national championship," Knight said. "(Having said that), it's kind of hard to pass up an opportunity like this."

Knight, one of the top players in the country out of high school, said he didn't have any intentions when he signed with Kentucky of becoming a one-and-done player, nor did he know for certain that he would stay in school.

But as the season wore on and high-profile players started dropping out of the draft, Knight's already upward-trending stock skyrocketed.

"I had no idea where I'd be at the end of the year," Knight said. "With the way I was playing at the beginning of the year, I wasn't going to be able to leave. You just never know. It's kind of a hard thing to do. You come here and you see what happens. The opportunity was here for me so I was able to take advantage of it."

Coming so close to winning a national championship made the decision even tougher for Knight. He considered returning at one point because of the love he has for Kentucky and the development he underwent under head coach John Calipari.

Falling short of the national title, however, didn't put a damper on what Knight was hoping to get out of Kentucky.

"My goal was to come here and get better," Knight said. "That was my main goal, to come here and get better and compete for a national championship. I think I accomplished those things this year and I think this opportunity just came up toward the end of the year."

Knight finished the year with a 17.3 scoring average en route to breaking the UK freshman scoring record (657 points). While filling the gigantic shoes of last year's No. 1 NBA Draft pick, John Wall, Knight was fourth in the Southeastern Conference in scoring and ranked second in assists (4.2 per game).

But Knight believes his biggest accomplishment this year was transforming from a talented, high-scoring high school player to a collegiate leader. He said he's learned to run a team from Calipari.

"At the beginning of the year I didn't know certain things like where guys should be, how to address certain guys, just talking in general," Knight said. "I didn't like to talk much. Over the year I got better at talking and leading the team."

Knight participated in the Kentucky Combine earlier in the week and got the confirmation he was hoping to hear. Although there are questions about what position he's best suited for, NBA personnel have told Knight that they believe he can be a high-scoring point guard.

"I helped my stock," Knight said. "I improved myself and I solidified my position that I was predicted to go."

4650031.jpegKnight said his parents and Calipari were behind him the whole way.

"(Coach) kind of left it all up to me," Knight said. "He just kind of gave me what he thought. He said, basically, 'Whatever decision you make, I'm behind you 100 percent, whether it's staying or going.' He didn't really try to persuade me one way or another. ... Coach Cal is always trustworthy with his players and he's always behind them whatever decisions they make. He's going to fight for you, whatever situation it may be."

Now that Knight knows his future, the next step is preparing for the draft and getting ready for a potential NBA lockout.

Knight said he has not signed with an agent yet but plans to in the near future.

As far as the lockout goes, Knight is aware that it could reduce the number of games next year and prevent him from getting paid. If it happens and Knight finds himself without a league in the fall, he said he would likely return to UK to train and continue with his degree. He is currently at about 60 credit hours and plans to take courses this summer.

"I plan on spending as much time here as possible," Knight said. "I'll be trying to get as many credit hours as I can to get closer to my degree. I plan to train here throughout the summer and I also plan to go to class so I can get closer to my degree and also be able to live my dream at the same time." 

With Knight out of the fold, the attention now turns to underclassmen Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins. Both have entered the draft but can withdraw by Sunday so long as they have not signed with an agent.

Jones, a freshman, said on Twitter on Thursday that he was still split "50/50" in his decision to stay or go. He's not expected to make an announcement until Sunday.

Liggins, a junior, is scheduled to participate in a combine in New Jersey this weekend for additional, last-minute feedback.

Knight said he's talked a little bit with Jones and Liggins but doesn't know what they're going to do.

"Everyone's in different situations," Knight said. "You talk to them and see where their mind's at and stuff like that, but everyone's in different categories as far as where they may fall. Everyone has different family situations, different schooling situations. It's totally different for each and every one of us."

For Knight, the situation was an opportunity to good to pass up.

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