Ex-Cats hit jackpot: Knox, Gilgeous-Alexander lottery picks in NBA Draft


LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kevin Knox heard the boos after he was taken as the No. 9 pick in the NBA Draft Thursday night in Brooklyn, New York, but didn’t seem to mind the jeers moments after he was chosen by the New York Knicks.

Many Knicks fans in attendance were chanting for Michael Porter Jr. of Missouri, who was later chosen as the No. 14 pick by the Denver Nuggets.

“I like that, it’s motivation,” Knox said. “A lot of the city wanted Porter, but I’m ready to work and I’m ready to get to the organization and try to win some games. I’m an all-around type of player and I’m very versatile. Coach (David) Fizdale is a players coach and he’s going to use me around the court. I’m really looking forward to it. … I’m just going to keep better and I have a lot to learn.”

Knox was the first Kentucky player taken in the draft and became the 13th player in the past nine years to be selected in the Top 10.

“He’s very talented,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “He’s long, athletic and he is a scorer. He’s an NBA-caliber shooter that can pull up off the dribble, He moves very well without the ball and he’s got a really good feel from mid-range. He’s an effort-less shooter, even though (last) year he was a little bit streaky throughout the year. He’s the man and he’s really good.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was selected as the 11th pick by Charlotte but was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Myles Bridges and two second-round picks.

Gilgeous-Alexander wasn’t surprised by the trade and didn’t mind switching from the East to West coast to begin his professional career.

“It’s a great feeling, honestly,” he said. “Being able to play in the NBA in itself is a blessing. Not a lot of kids get to experience it, with me being one of them is an amazing feeling.”

Many NBA analysts think Gilgeous-Alexander will succeed at the next level.

“The Clippers got the best point guard in the draft,” NBA draft analyst Mike Schmitz said. “He’s 6-foot-6 and has a 7-foot wingspan. He’s a versatile defender and he’s going to be able to guard ones and twos and eventually threes. He has an outstanding feel for the game. … He’s what teams are looking for in terms of feel, in terms of length and physicality. I really like what he has become. He’s really self-made guy and just a major win for the Clippers getting him at No. 11.”

Bilas agreed and said Gilgeous-Alexander has all the tools needed to be successful at the next level.

“He’s an excellent defender that I think shows very good toughness,” the ESPN announcer said. “He proved to be a good pick-and-roll ball handler at the end of the season. He’s a penetrating guard who can put the ball on the deck and get to the basket and was especially good over his last 10 games (at Kentucky). He continued to get better and better. .. He’s a disruptive defender and he’s also a high-character guy and he’s a great kid. He became their best player at the end of the year.”

Jarred Vanderbilt was chosen by the Orlando Magic as the 41st overall pick. Hamidou Diallo was selected by the Brooklyn Nets four picks later at No. 45. Vanderbilt was later traded to Denver for Justin Jackson and a future second-round pick. Jackson was the 43rd player taken in the draft. Diallo was happy to be among the 60 picks in the draft.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s an honor no matter what pick it is. Only a couple guys get this opportunity in a lifetime. You’ve got to cherish it and stay humble and hungry. That’s the motto I’m living by: I’m humble and hungry and that’s the motto I’m going to keep living by no matter what happens.”

Vanderbilt was equally excited.

“I’m beyond excited to see my dreams come true,” he said. “This is a blessing that my family and I will never forget. Now the real work begins. I’m looking forward to getting to work with the Nuggets. I couldn’t have ended up in a better spot.”

Wenyen Gabriel was not selected in the draft.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor.sun@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21

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