If you want to write a story about how good Curtis Knight is, you’d better talk to someone other than Curtis Knight. It’s not that he lacks confidence; you can see by the way he conducts himself on the floor that he believes in himself and his abilities. It’s just that the way he conducts himself on the floor is the way he prefers to communicate.
“Everyone knows I don’t say a lot,” Knight says in a classic of understatement. But his play and his approach to the game speak volumes. “He just never takes a shift off and that includes in practice,” says his coach with the Whitby Warriors, Derek Keenan. “He’s a go-all-out-all-the-time kid. That’s the first thing, he’s just a gamer.”
That’s the first reason why Keenan, also the Edmonton Rush Head Coach and GM, chose Knight with the eight overall pick in this year’s National Lacrosse League Entry Draft. The second? Versatility. “He’s a kid that I know I can put in any situation and he’s gonna do a good job. He can play both ends of the floor, he runs the floor well, he can press up very well, he can play on the power play, he can play on the penalty kill…he can do anything,” Keenan says. “Faceoff team—he’s an absolute hound on loose balls. He’s very proficient at picking them up and maintaining possession. He brings a lot to the table in a small package.”
That versatility means that Knight can’t be sure where he’ll be playing when he suits up with the Rush. “I like him on offence,: Keenan says, “but we’ve got six righty O guys right now that we’re going to have at camp. If it turns out that we want to keep five of them or all of them, that’s where you move roles around a little bit. Of the whole group, he’s definitely the versatile one, there’s no doubt about that.”
Knight was named Most Valuable Player of the 2011 Minto Cup even though he was playing with superstar forward Mark Matthews. He returned to the Warriors in 2012 and dwarfed his previous scoring totals, putting up 42 goals and 53 assists for 95 points, tied for fourth in the league.
It also put him tied for second on his own team. But while both Reilly O’Connor (the league leader with 79 assists and second with 104 points) and Mark Cockerton (45/50/95) are both excellent offensive players, there’s no doubt who the Warriors’ leader was. Watching Whitby play this summer, it was uncanny how often Knight would step up when they needed a big play. If they needed a goal, he would score it or do most of the work to set it up. If they needed a stop, he’d be in the defensive zone checking the opponent’s biggest threat and getting the ball back.
And even though he’s only 5′9” and 160 pounds, Knight never backs down from a challenge. Keenan doesn’t see Knight’s size being a huge obstacle to success in the NLL, which makes sense since it’s never stopped him from doing anything at any other level. In fact, Keenan thinks Knight may be even more effective in the pro league. “I like what he brings in terms of explosive speed and quickness and keeping in mind that in the NLL, with a bit bigger floor and a bit more attention to the actual rules of the game than you see in the summer—you don’t get away with the holding and the off-ball crap that you get away with in the summer—even though he’s playing against better guys he’s probably going to get a little bit more space. Especially with some of the guys he’s got around him,” Keenan says.
For his part, Knight says he’s nervous and excited to move to Edmonton and get his first taste of the NLL. The Guelph University student-athlete is looking into taking some courses through the University of Alberta while he’s in the province for the winter. And he’s hoping he can make a positive contribution to the Rush. “I’m hoping to be able to do that. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to but I’ll try to,” he says.
Again, don’t read a lack of confidence into that statement, just humility. An example of his character shines through when Knight is asked what he’s looking forward to in his first NLL season. “I’m looking forward to learning from the other players and getting a lot better. I have another season of junior and I want to come back and help my teammates in Whitby as much as I can.”
In the interim, Knight will have a chance to help the Rush fight for the team’s first Champions Cup title and he’ll do it by talking softly but carrying a very effective stick.Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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