By Bret McCormick
Perched in front a microphone with a gaggle of teammates, teachers and media members looking on, Ze’Kiya Knox didn’t have much to say. Flustered and unsure, she looked to her mother, Sonya Knox, for reassurance.
Her basketball coach at Rock Hill High School, Kenny Orr, said she isn’t like that on the court.
“Not at all, not shy at all. She has that aggressive mentality when it comes to the court, but she’s very low key to the people that know her.”
“Yeah, I’m a shy person,” Knox confirmed afterward. “I get it from my dad (Zedric).”
Though bashful outside of the gym, Knox almost always had an answer on the hardwood for Rock Hill last winter. The senior guard signed Wednesday morning to continue her career and education under the tutelage of head coach Javon Gilliard at Denmark Technical College in Denmark, S.C.
“I’m very excited to play at the next level,” said Knox. “I didn’t think I would get the chance.”
She acknowledged her grades weren’t up to par, which cost her several other opportunities. But everyone in the room Wednesday watched Knox scribble her name on a second chance contract, one that will put her in a structured environment in a small, rural community with little to do but study and hoop.
“I think that’s the kind of situation she needs to be in,” Orr said. “Discipline, lots of structure, lot of expectations put on her. Now, she can probably parlay this into something better.”
“There’s not so much to do so she’ll be able to focus on academics, academics, and then basketball,” Gilliard explained. “I think playing at Denmark Tech will help her achieve those academic goals.”
Basketball will be the vehicle for Knox’s second chance. A 5-foot-8 All-Region 3-AAAA performer the last two years, she averaged 12.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game for the Bearcats this past season. The senior also chipped in 2.3 steals and a blocked shot per outing.
Gilliard praised Knox’s basketball IQ, saying, “She’ll be able to help guide us to another conference championship and to the national tournament.”
Denmark Tech has won the last two Region 10 championships, but has fallen at the district tournament level each season, one step from the national tournament. Despite the late stumbles, the program has won over 40 games in the last two years, which certainly appealed to Knox.
“I was impressed and I wanted to join the program because of that,” she said. “I want to win a ring and have the opportunity to win a championship.”
Knox might want to get into a public speaking class this fall, but her new coach laughed off the shyness.
“That’s a good thing,” Gilliard said. “At least we know we won’t have any problems with her and disciplinary actions.”
Bret McCormick • 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T