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Brandon Knight showing his well-documented work ethic to make the most of his opportunity with the Cleveland Cavaliers

March 6, 2019

Brandon Knight showing his well-documented work ethic to make the most of his opportunity with the Cleveland Cavaliers

CLEVELAND, Ohio— The stories about Brandon Knight’s work ethic are plentiful.

They stretch back to his time as a teenager in South Florida, where he was one of the top five high school players in the country and won two Gatorade National Player of the Year awards. Just ask Ed Waite, Knight’s friend, former teammate and former Monmouth University forward.

“One day in high school, Brandon called me and said, ’Hey, let’s work out today,” Waite said. “I asked what he had in mind and he says, ’Let’s go to the beach for a workout then finish up in the gym.

“We both pulled up to Commercial Beach in Ft. Lauderdale. It’s like 90 degrees outside. We start the beach workout and after about an hour of work, we proceeded to do sprints in the sand. We kept our socks on, just so the sand wouldn’t feel like walking across a frying pan.”

Two hours into the workout, Waite and Knight left the beach for Stacy Gymnasium at Pine Crest School, where they won two FHSAA State Championships for the Panthers.

“We both set a goal to make 500 shots apiece,” Waite said. “We get done with that after about two hours. After that nearly four-hour workout session, I was like, ‘I’m done. No more. See you later.’”

Knight, however, wasn’t quite finished.

“Brandon texted me at 9 or 10 p.m. that night saying, ‘I just finished up getting an extra 500 makes,’” Waite said. “That’s just the type of person he is.”

Fast forward to Knight’s time with the Bucks in 2014, where he was coached by Larry Drew. During Knight’s lone full season with Drew, he played 33 minutes a game, averaging 17.9 points on 42 percent shooting from the field.

One night, Drew caught wind of Knight’s post-game routine. Following a morning shootaround, a pre-game warmup, a full NBA game and post-game treatment in the locker room, Knight would return to the Bucks’ practice facility to get more shots up. Sometimes, those sessions would last a couple of hours.

“I had conversations with him about having just to back off a bit,” Drew said. “You have to be mindful of the fact that it’s a long season, but he’s always been that type of a person. He’s a workaholic.”

Though Knight has backed off a bit, now reunited with Drew in Cleveland, he admits that he’ll still go back to Independence if he feels he needs a bit more time with his shot.

“That’s just kind of how I’ve been my entire life,” Knight said. “If there’s something I need to work on or if I feel not like myself, I try to shoot myself back into a rhythm. That can be a good thing and a bad thing sometimes because you need to rest. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried to learn to get off my feet and just rest and get back into a rhythm that way.”

Unfortunately, he hasn’t found much rhythm in a career filled with challenges.

Drafted eighth overall by the Pistons in 2011, Knight has played for Detroit, Milwaukee, Phoenix, Houston and now Cleveland. He’s endured four operations, including an operation to repair a torn ACL and a later infection that kept him out of the NBA from the summer of 2016 until December of 2018.

Knight found a way to working even when sidelined for nearly 700 days.

“You can’t look too far in advance because it’s a long road,” Knight said. “(I was) just taking it day by day and winning, winning every single day. ‘How can I get better today? How can I make the best out of each day?’ And before you know it, time has passed. Every hurdle has a hurdle in itself, so it’s just about trying to overcome that.”

As he toiled in the training room and weight room longing to get back to the court, Knight relied on his family. As a kid in South Florida, Knight watched his father, Efram, work on the railroad, putting in 12-hour days and graveyard shifts in order to support his family and make every one of his son’s games.

His father’s dedication was absorbed by Knight, who not only strove to be his best on the court, but in the classroom, leaving Pine Crest with a 4.3 GPA and enough advanced placement classes to earn 18 credits before enrolling at the University of Kentucky.

“I’ve always wanted to be the best and get the best out of myself and try to reach my potential,” Knight said. “I think that comes from hard work.”

Efram and his mother, Tonya, weren’t finished influencing their son. Effort is something that can be controlled. For everything else, there’s God.

Knight’s faith has existed since his parents took him to New Ark Covenant Church in Hialeah every Sunday. “To God Be The Glory” is the mantra he carries always, along with his Bible.

Cavs forward Marquese Chriss, traded with Knight from Phoenix to Houston and Houston to Cleveland, has seen firsthand just how Knight’s faith has helped during the NBA journey.

“He helps with just keeping the faith and trusting the process that things are going to turn out right,” Chriss said. “Having somebody like that who has faith and who trusts in God helps me to keep my faith and stay positive always.”

Waite has seen it too.

“Brandon’s faith in God allowed him to overcome that injury and allowed him to really put more and more work into his craft,” Waite said. “I have never seen someone so determined to get back in my life.”

Asked what his faith means to him, he quickly says “everything.”

“Without Him, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I’ve been through a lot of injuries and I’m still here standing eight years into the league, so it’s a blessing just to be here.”

Knight is referring to the NBA, but is happy to be in Cleveland as well.

His first game after his injury rehab was Dec. 13 against the Lakers, playing four minutes. He saw action in 11 of the next 27 games, playing little more than five minutes on any night. Houston’s star guards Chris Paul and James Harden can make it difficult for any reserve to find playing time, much less someone working their way back from a career-threatening injury.

That’s why, when the Cavaliers came calling, Knight was thrilled to pick up the phone. He knew that Cleveland would provide an opportunity unavailable in many other cities. Sure enough, Knight started in his first game in Cleveland, scoring nine points in 16 minutes in a win over the Knicks.

Now established as a starting guard, Knight admits he’s not back to the player who averaged nearly 18 points per game in Milwaukee and nearly 20 points in Phoenix.

But he’s confident he can be that player once again.

“I’m just thankful for just being healthy,” Knight said. “I know if I’m on the court, those things will come. … As long as I’m healthy, I’m confident that those things will fall into place.”

In his first nine games for the Cavaliers, Knight averaged 6.9 points in 18 minutes, while shooting an impressive 41 percent from behind the three-point line. But he continues to linger on the court following practice, taking shots as his teammates shower and ready themselves for Wednesday’s game in Brooklyn.

Knight isn’t about to stop working to make the most of the opportunity he’s been given.

“(I have) a chance to get back on the court and … do what I love to do most,” he said. “To work on myself as a basketball player, as a leader, as a point guard, as a guard in general.

“There’s no better feeling.”