Knowles makes long-awaited debut
The crowd gave an ovation as sophomore forward Danrad “Chicken” Knowles entered the game against UTSA at the 13:27 mark in the first half.
He rewarded their applause by immediately scoring the first bucket of his collegiate career off an offensive rebound, but Knowles’ season debut on Thursday was a year in the making.
He was ruled academically ineligible before last season and sat out while taking classes at UH-Downtown. Knowles redshirted last season and will have four years of eligibility remaining.
“I had butterflies at the beginning, but I got it out of the way. I was just waiting to get in (the game),” Knowles said. “I think I did pretty well, though, and the dunk felt good.”
Knowles wasn’t able to dunk in the first half, but he had a tip-dunk off sophomore forward Danuel House’s miss at the 6:24 mark in the second half, which helped the Cougars pull away for the win. Knowles had a solid debut, contributing seven points, five rebounds and two blocks in just 19 minutes of action. Against Lehigh on Sunday, Knowles was a force on defense, blocking four shots in only 17 minutes.
His versatility and athleticism will help the Cougars on both sides of the ball, said sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas.
“He brings more size, and we know he can shoot, and to be 6’10 and have the ability to step out and take a bigger man out (helps),” Thomas said. “He can step out and knock down the three or whatever we need him to do, so he’s very versatile, which adds a lot to the team.”
Knowles can stretch the floor, score posting around the basket, rebound, run the floor and shoot the ball from out on the perimeter, said head coach James Dickey.
“As most freshmen do, there’s a learning curve getting used to the system, but we’re not going to be afraid to play him. We just want to get him to gain some confidence,” Dickey said. “Not having the opportunity to play in the exhibition game or the first two games, I want to make sure he feels comfortable and knows what we’re doing and understands how to execute the system of what we’re trying to do.”
Much was expected from Knowles when he signed with UH. As a senior, Knowles led the Homeschool Christian Youth Association to a national title and was selected for the Maravich Award, which is given to the nation’s top home-schooled high school basketball player.
The four-star recruit could affect the game in a variety of ways as the season progresses, but coaches and teammates were just excited to see Knowles having fun on the court.
“We were just happy for him to get on the court and to see that smile,” Dickey said.