SUNS SHINE ON DAYTON'S KNIGHT
It came as a complete surprise to Negele Knight Wednesday night when the Phoenix Suns selected him in the second round of the National Basketball Association player draft.
"I never sat down and talked to them and I never heard from them," said Knight, who led the University of Dayton Flyers to a 22-10 record last season. "It's a surprise to me, but it's a good surprise."
Watching the draft on television in Detroit at the home of his brother, Oscar, Knight had to wait almost three hours until his name was called at 10:25 p.m.
He was the fourth player selected in the second round and the 31st overall.
"I'm doing fine . . . now that I don't have to play against K.J.," Knight said moments after he got the news.
K.J. is Kevin Johnson, the starting point guard for the Suns.
"I played against him in our Christmas tournament my freshman year," said Knight, referring to Johnson's appearance in the Merrill Lynch Classic with the California Golden Bears. "People ask me who was the best guard I've ever played against, and that's him."
Guard Negele Knight of the Phoenix Suns moves the ball during a 1993 game. Layne Murdoch /Allsport
Credit: Layne Murdoch
Credit: Layne Murdoch
The Suns, who selected 6-foot-8 power forward Jason Williams of St. John's with the 21st pick in the first round, took Knight in hopes that his presence will enable Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons to give Johnson more rest than he got during the past season.
"Kevin Johnson needs some rest," Fitzsimmons said. "You can ride a good horse to death if you use him too much."
Last year, Phoenix drafted 5-7 guard Greg Grant, the NCAA Division III scoring leader from Trenton (N.J.) State College, in the second round for the same reason, but he didn't get the job done.
The Suns had to press 6-4 shooting guard Jeff Hornacek into duty as a point guard.
Fitzsimmons thinks Knight could be the answer. He was particularly impressed with the numbers the 6-1 senior posted late in the season.
During the last five weeks of the season, Knight sparked UD to an 11-game winning string with a phenomenal scoring spree. He averaged 29.7 points per game. He shot .615 (72-117) from the field, .703 (19-27) from 3-point range and .820 (50-61) from the free throw line.
"He's quick and he's a tough guy," Fitzsimmons said. "You figure the last few games of the season were the toughest, and that's when he was the toughest."
Phoenix apparently was debating between choosing Knight and Brian Oliver of Georgia Tech. The Suns decided that Knight had better all-around playmaking skills.
Knight was the fifth true point guard selected. Chosen ahead of him were Gary Payton of Oregon State (2nd by Seattle), Rumeal Robinson of Michigan (10th by Atlanta), Dee Brown of Jacksonville (19th by Boston) and Lance Blanks of Texas (26th by Detroit).
Four other MCC players were selected in the draft. They are: Tyrone Hill of Xavier (11th by Golden State), Anthony Bonner of St. Louis (23rd by Sacramento), Derek Strong of Xavier (47th by Philadelphia) and Tony Smith of Marquette (51st by the Los Angeles Lakers).
Knight, who flew to Portland at the Trail Blazers' request two weeks ago, thought he might be selected by Portland late in the first round, but they picked 6-10 Alaa Abdelnaby of Duke.
Sacramento, which had four first round choices, also had an interest but backed off after landing shooting guard Travis Mays of Texas with the 14th pick.
Knight was mildly disappointed that he wasn't picked in the first round, but no Flyer has been drafted in the first round since 1979 when Jim Paxson was selected by Portland.
"It's Phoenix, they need a point guard and I'm ready," Knight said. "It's a good situation, and it will take some pressure off me. Now I have some kind of focus."
The Suns called Knight's agent, Fred Slaughter, in Los Angeles to inform him of their pick.
"Fred just called me," Knight said, indicating that he got no information about the dates of rookie camp or any other details. "All that will be discussed tomorrow. I'll talk with him again tomorrow night."
Knight, 23, averaged 22.8 points for the Flyers, who won the Midwestern Collegiate Conference tournament championship and played two games in the NCAA tournament.