Casual basketball followers in Baltimore City might not remember Daishon Knight. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound combo guard didn't play for Lake Clifton during his senior year of high school in 2010, and he never suited up for a local AAU team either.
But starting this fall, hoops fans from this area will get a chance to follow Knight's progress on a bigger stage when he takes the court for Illinois State. Knight, a West Baltimore native, signed his letter of intent to play for the Redbirds last week.
"I'm just ready to work, man," Knight said. "I'm ready to compete. I'm ready to get out there and compete with the best and show my talent."
Knight grew up on Pennsylvania Ave. and spent his first three years of high school at Walbrook during the Roscoe Smith era. He played point guard for the Warriors and then transitioned to more of a scoring role at the Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers (KIMA) in D.C. during his fourth year of high school.
Knight "got behind" his freshman year and ended up having to repeat a grade. So in the fall of 2009 he went to Lake Clifton, joining Josh Selby, who he calls his brother. But because of his academic missteps, Knight wasn't eligible to suit up for the Lakers. And although he was known locally for playing pickup at the Carmelo Anthony Youth Center and several Westside playgrounds, colleges weren't that familiar with a guy who "never played AAU ball."
"A lot of people didn't think I was going to get qualified," Knight said. "So I had to go to prep school. That's when I started to get recruited."
At Maine Central Institute, Knight built up his reputation by starring against several college-bound prep-school players. But his SAT score came up short of NCAA qualifying standards, so Knight headed to Blinn College in Brenham, Texas. He then followed coach Tra Arnold from Blinn to Odessa (Texas) College for his sophomore season.
"It was exciting for me, man. It was really exciting," said Knight, who is ranked the No. 104 player in the country by JUCOJunction.com. "Competition was good. I was just getting in the gym, just kept working. I didn't want nobody else to outwork me."
Knight averaged 19.4 points for Odessa, shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 36.4 from 3-point range. He started 30 out of 31 games, guiding the Wranglers to a 23-8 record last season.
Off the court, Knight took care of business in the classroom.
"In high school, I was still a kid, man. I didn't realize how serious this thing really is," Knight said. "I got to junior college, and you actually get around more serious people. People are taking their jobs seriously. You tend to grow on that and mature on that. You realize you have to do your job. You really have to get that education."
With his basketball and books in order, Knight landed offers from Illinois State, Murray State and St. Louis, while also receiving interest from Baylor, Kansas State, North Texas and San Jose State, among others. His visit to Normal, Ill., clinched his decision for the Redbirds.
"I liked the coaching staff, I really liked the players. When I went there, they made me feel at home," Knight said. "The atmosphere was really nice. They got the kinesiology program that I'm really interested in. I love the gym. I love the [Missouri Valley] Conference. I love their non-conference games. It just seemed like the perfect fit for me."
After five years of high school, one post-grad year and two years of junior college, some players might have given up on their basketball dreams. But Knight said Selby motivated him and the rest of his family supported him. Now he's excited to finally play on a big stage with Illinois State.
"[I'm looking] to get wins, man. To get Ws," Knight said. "They know I'm going to do my part and they'll do their part, [we'll] come out and win at the end of the day."