By Steve Millar
Despite a close loss to Marian Catholic in his team’s season opener, Marist senior guard Alex Knight was thrilled to be back on the court playing with fellow senior Jabari Hill and the rest of his RedHawks teammates.
“It’s really special,” Knight said. “Jabari and I both love the program. We’ve been playing together all four years and we love playing with each other.
“The thought of maybe not having a season was so sad because we’ve worked so hard for this moment, our senior season. Getting this opportunity means a lot to us.”
Knight was awfully impressive against the Spartans, finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds as host Marist fell 49-44 in an East Suburban Catholic game in Chicago.
“Coming into this year, I knew I would have to step up and lead these guys, take on a bigger offensive role,” Knight said. “I was ready for it. I worked a lot this offseason on my shot and knowing when to attack.”
Sophomore guard Leirre Collier scored nine points, while Hill had seven points for Marist.
Marian’s Jeremiah Jones proved to be too much for the RedHawks to handle, as he finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Jeremiah Smith added eight points, while Tre Davis and Quentin Jones chipped in seven each for the Spartans. Quentin Jones added seven rebounds.
After the season was long-delayed and its future in question because of the coronavirus pandemic, the IHSA announced Jan. 27 that basketball games could begin as soon as teams got seven practices in.
With a schedule limited to six weeks, teams scrambled to get ready to play as quickly as possible.
“Our goal was to compete, play together as a team and keep our heads,” Marist coach Tim Trendel said. “In a short season, we’ve had eight practices.
“They came out in a zone in the last quarter, and we haven’t practiced against a zone at all. Competing is going to be a huge thing for us. Our guys competed tonight.”
Down 28-19 at halftime, Marist fought back to within 40-36 at the end of the third. Knight caught fire for 10 points in the quarter, including eight over the final 2 minutes, 37 seconds.
Trendel said the RedHawks will be leaning on Knight for his leadership this season.
“Alex has to be the glue that kind of keeps us together,” Trendel said. “When that run comes against us, he’s got to be the guy who keeps us calm. I told the guys, ‘When I’m the calmest guy in the gym, we’ve got problems.’
“Alex has to be the one who’s like, ‘Everybody calm down. Everybody trust me and follow my lead.’ He’s got that demeanor to be that calming influence, which we need with a lot of young kids.”
Knight embraces that role.
“I try to use my experience to show these guys different defensive situations, offensive situations, and just explaining to them the important parts of a varsity basketball game,” he said. “We’ve got talent. I’m just trying to be vocal. This has definitely been my most vocal year.”