Eleven years after his brother Elgrace Wilborn played his final college basketball game, Demetrius Knox is getting his chance with the Ohio State Buckeyes and — judging by his performance in his first start Saturday at Nebraska — making the most of it.
Watching the Springfield South graduate Wilborn do his thing years ago in two seasons at the University of Tennessee and two seasons at Western Kentucky inspired Knox as a kid and still does.
“The major thing I learned from my brother watching him play basketball was he was just a dog,” Knox said. “He was an animal 24-7. Growing up in a single-parent household with my mom (Aledia Cavitt), you can kind of get a little soft since you’re the baby. He never let that happen.”
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Knox lived in Springfield until the seventh grade, attending Perrin Woods Elementary School and Roosevelt Middle School. He moved to Fort Worth, Texas, because his uncle thought he would get more looks from colleges.
Knox arrived at Ohio State as a member of the class of 2014. He appeared in 13 games, mostly on special teams in 2015. Last season, he played in nine games and earned significant playing time in the Fiesta Bowl when Michael Jordan was injured.
Knox competed for the starting job at right guard in the preseason but lost out to Bowen. Now he could have a starting job for the most important stretch of the season. Bowen suffered a season-ending injury in the 62-14 victory over Maryland on Oct. 7, opening the door for Knox to start in the 56-14 victory over the Cornhuskers.
The No. 6 Buckeyes (6-1, 4-0) don’t play this week and return to action against No. 2 Penn State (6-0, 3-0) at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 28 at Ohio Stadium. It will be a significant test for Knox, who earned a champion grade in his first start.
“I think I performed a little better than I thought I would,” Knox said. “I was really nervous. I listened to Billy (Price) and Isaiah (Prince). They make it easy for me.”
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Knox said his family blew up his phone when they found out he earned a starting job. His offensive line coach at All Saints’ Episcopal in Fort Worth, John Bates, was a walk-on at Ohio State, so he has a special interest in seeing Knox play.
On Saturday, fans saw a different Knox than the one who struggled in the loss to Clemson. Knox said he stopped thinking about his own goals and started focusing on the bigger picture.
“I just took myself out of the picture,” Knox said. “We’ve got a little sign in our locker room. We don’t go to war to fight the people in front of us but for the love of our brothers beside us and behind us, so I did it for them.”
Notes: Price, Ohio State’s starting center, was named a midseason All-American by the Associated Press this week. Cornerback Denzel Ward earned the same honor from CBS Sports. The All-American and the Sporting News named defensive end Nick Bosa to their midseason first team. … On his radio call-in show Thursday, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said defensive end Jalyn Holmes and hybrid back Parris Campbell will play against Penn State. Both suffered injuries in the Nebraska game.