Fifteen years ago, Kevin Garnett was a high-school trail blazer. The Ticket jumped directly from high school to the NBA and proved prep stars could have immediate impact. KG opened the door for Kobe, Kwame and a slew of high-schoolers which changed the face of the league.
Could Brandon Knight have the same importance, but in a totally different way? Knight famously never signed a Letter of Intent with Kentucky, leading to widespread speculation he would transfer if John Calipari bolts for the NBA. Syracuse was reportedly in his Final Three, so Orange Nation salivated at the annual Coach Cal rumor mongering.
BK spoke of the decision in an interview with SLAM.
“Just in case I decided to change my mind if coach decided to go do something better for his family or something of that nature. I would have that opportunity and that option, not be locked up. I trust coach Cal and the coaching staff and players around me. It was really something my family had always said we would do. Just in case because you never know.”
Will other players follow his lead?
“I don’t think many people know you don’t have to sign an actual LOI. So, I’m not sure. But I don’t see why not. It’s a win-win situation for the player.”
It is absolutely the smart move by a player. The biggest injustice in NCAA athletics is an athlete being penalized and restricted from transferring, while a coach can move about as he pleases. Not inking an LOI allows the player much more freedom in leaving should his situation change.
Why hasn’t this been done before? Coaches and programs kept the option buried for obvious reasons. They want the player locked up. It also would take one of the top prep stars (Knight was roundly considered the country’s best recruit) to be able to demand such an option and the university to have to acquiesce, plus a coach that spits in the face of convention.
Will other highly recruited athletes follow Knight’s lead and refuse to sign LOIs? Hopefully. BK shouldn’t be locked into the Wildcats if Calipari ducks out for the NBA, just like coaches aren’t forced to sit out a season when they flee programs. Knight may have opened the door to a type of college athlete free-agency, for better or worse.