- - Tuesday, March 5, 2019

HARRISONBURG, Va. | Nathan Knight stood at the foul line, then placed the basketball on his right hip. He took a deep breath, with his 6-foot-10 frame sagging in his green William & Mary uniform, before taking aim at the basket with a smooth left-handed delivery.

With purple-clad James Madison fans hollering on all sides, Knight calmly nailed his second free throw with 44.8 seconds left, giving him a game-high 29 points to go with nine rebounds and three assists.

Even the tractor-trailers roaring past 100 yards away on I-81 wouldn’t distract the mature Knight, who led the Tribe to a 70-66 win Saturday against its Colonial Athletic Association rival.

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William & Mary has won five straight on the broad shoulders of Knight, one of the top college centers in the country.

“He deserves all of the attention he gets,” said former roommate and junior Justin Pierce. “I have no problem playing second fiddle to him. He is so crafty around the rim. I think he is an NBA player in the future. I think he is the best player in the CAA. He is the hardest worker I have ever been around.”

Knight, a junior, became the first player in program history to score 30tpoints three games in a row when he scored 30 on Feb. 21 against the College of Charleston.

He was also the first Tribe player to reach 35 points in back-to-back games when he had a career-high 39 against CAA regular-season champ Hofstra and then 35 at Elon Feb. 16. The last time a William & Mary player had 39 points in a game was 1961, when Jeff Cohen scored a school-record 49.

Knight has been named a top 10 candidate for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award. Others on that list include Georgetown senior Jessie Govan and Maryland junior Bruno Fernando. Fernando is a projected NBA first-rounder.

“It is amazing to be on that watch list,” Knight said. “It is great to be mentioned in the same category with Ian Happ of Wisconsin and Fernando.”

With one more season of eligibility left, would Knight, playing in a conference rated 18th out of 32 by teamrankings.com, consider transferring to a higher level for his senior year? Tribe coach Tony Shaver said there were about 800 transfers in a recent season among the 351 Division I schools, but his program has had just a handful in his 16 years in Williamsburg.

“We are all family,” Knight said. “I love them and I am almost certain they love me. The idea of leaving doesn’t cross your mind. A lot of those players leave for self-interest, which is fine. I want to make sure everyone is happy.”

“I think Nate really loves his teammates, he loves William & Mary,” Shaver said. “It is a place he really feels at home.”

Knight also realizes the value of a William & Mary degree. He is a business analytics major with a concentration in finance.

Now, he will try to lead the Tribe to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.

The surging No. 4 seed Tribe (14-16, 10-8 in the CAA) will play No. 5 seed Delaware (16-15, 8-10) on Sunday in the CAA tournament in Charleston, South Carolina. The winner of the tourney gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Tribe is 0-4 in the CAA tourney title games under Shaver.

Knight, from Syracuse, New York, has started the first 30 games of the season and is averaging 21.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest. As a freshman Knight played in 31 games with five starts and averaged 17.2 minutes and 8.2 points. As a sophomore, he played in 31 games, with 30 starts, and averaged 28.7 minutes and 18.5 points.

Knight has also lost 50 pounds since he came to Williamsburg as a freshman.

“Since the day he walked on campus he has worked,” Shaver said. “You have to give him credit for that.”

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