CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - Alabama transfer Justin Knox plopped down in a chair, then found himself surrounded by about a dozen reporters on North Carolina’s practice court.
Now a member of the Tar Heels men’s basketball program, it was more attention than he was used to at a football school like Alabama.
“I’ve never had anything like that before,” Knox said Thursday during UNC’s media day. “Most of the time, it was like one or two (reporters), so I’m kind of overwhelmed right now.”
The Tar Heels hope that’s a temporary state coming off their miserable 17-loss season.
They need immediate help for a front line depleted by the unexpected transfers of twins David and Travis Wear. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Knox, transferring in as a graduate student, only averaged about six points per game in his best season with the Crimson Tide.
Knox is the first scholarship player to transfer into the program since Makhtar Ndiaye left Michigan to play for Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge from 1996-98.
“I guess everything happens for a reason,” Knox said. “With the Wear twins and that leaving a hole in the frontcourt, there came an opportunity for me and I’m pretty grateful it happened.”
North Carolina hopes Knox can help fill the void created by the loss of senior Deon Thompson (graduation) and sophomore Ed Davis (NBA draft) from last year’s frontcourt.
The loss of the Wears to UCLA caught coach Roy Williams off guard and came too late for the Tar Heels to find a last-minute recruit.
That left North Carolina with only 7-footer Tyler Zeller and 6-10 forward John Henson up front. But around that same time, Knox was considering where to go next after deciding to transfer after three seasons at Alabama.
It was a marriage of good timing and good fortune, with Knox looking for a program that could help him pursue his goal of one day playing professionally and the Tar Heels getting a player who had the experience to play immediately. Knox went through summer school at Alabama to complete his course work for his undergraduate degree, which allowed him to transfer as a graduate student without the typical NCAA requirement of sitting out a year when transferring between Division I programs.
“We’d never seen him play,” Henson said. “He came in and he fit in just fine with us. … He’s got a nice back-to-the-basket game, which kind of surprised me. I think he’s going to be in there in the thick of things just like me, so it’s going to be fun.”
Knox enrolled in August and is in the school’s sports administration program, but he wasn’t immediately eligible to play with the Tar Heels during an exhibition tour of the Bahamas that month. With practice yet to start, Williams said he had only really seen Knox do some individual shooting since his arrival.