BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – With the NBA lockout still going on, Brandon Knight found a new job on Tuesday.
Nursing a minor ankle sprain, Knight sat out of an exhibition game between former Kentucky and Western Kentucky players but ended up coaching his team.
“It was a really fun experience,” said Knight, the eighth overall selection by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA draft. “I had a lot of fun coaching and talking to the guys.”
Knight hurt his ankle in a “Big Blue All-Stars” exhibition played Monday as the last event in a nine-game tour against small Kentucky colleges.
The 19-year-old has remained close to Kentucky’s fan base since declaring for the draft after the Wildcats’ Final Four run last season.
“I’m happy with my decision, and I always will be,” he said. “It was the best time to go.”
On Tuesday, Knight became increasingly active on the sideline in his “Big Blue” team’s 112-97 loss to a “Big Red” team led by Houston Rockets’ Courtney Lee and the Utah Jazz’s Jeremy Evans.
With seven minutes to go in the fourth — the blue team trailing by double digits — Knight started jeering officials over a foul called on former teammate Josh Harrellson, a second-round selection by the New Orleans Hornets.
“I’ve gotta get this ref’s name,” he said, as a crowd split between Wildcat blue and Hilltopper red laughed.
The game ended to a standing ovation by red- and blue-clad fans, who swarmed the court afterward for Knight’s autograph.
“Tonight was particularly fun just because of the fact that there were less players and all the guys wanted to win,” Knight said.
Knight entered Western Kentucky’s E.A. Diddle Arena about 25 minutes before tip wearing a sweat shirt and sweat pants. Rather than warm up with a team that included the Rockets’ Chuck Hayes, Knight signed autographs courtside.
Lee, a well-traveled player who’s played for the Magic, New Jersey Nets and Rockets, led all scorers with 36 points. He plans to play in other such exhibitions, as do other NBA players around the country, until the lockout ends.
“I’ve got to continue to train, work out every day and be ready,” Lee said. “Any time the owners come to an agreement with the players, our season’s on.”
Ty Rogers, a former Western Kentucky player known for his game-winning shot over Drake in the 2008 NCAA tournament, organized the event.
In Kentucky and Western Kentucky’s five-game history, the Wildcats have never played in Bowling Green.
“Before the game when I came in, I told some of the coaches we never got the chance to play UK,” said Evans, who’s coming off his rookie season with the Jazz. “I guess this was the closest I was going to get.”