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Knight solidifies his place among elite in W&M basketball history

  • Nathan Knight flying through the air to dunk the basketball
    Flying high:  At the peak of his college basketball career and in crunch time of his senior season, Nathan Knight ’20 can’t help but relay the enthusiasm he has brewing about William & Mary’s squad.  Photo courtesy of W&M Athletics
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At the peak of his college basketball career and in crunch time of his senior season, Nathan Knight ’20 can’t help but relay the enthusiasm he has brewing about William & Mary’s squad.

“This is a great time of the year in basketball season, right at the end of conference play and leading into the tournament is always a great feeling,” Knight said. “And you want to be feeling at your best.”

He also provided a reminder that it’s important to have fun. And his many basketball accolades aside, Knight talked about the importance of academics, family and growing into a complete person.

His senior season has seen Knight putting the cap on a career that will leave him among the best all-time to play basketball for W&M (20-10, 12-5 Colonial Athletic Association) as it prepares for the CAA tournament March 7-10 in Washington, D.C.

{{youtube:medium:right|VJMa0hIdVhM, In the Arena with Nathan Knight '20}}

A returning first team all-CAA pick, the 6-foot-10 center/forward became the fourth Tribe player to score more than 2,000 career points. This season, Knight leads W&M in scoring and rebounding at 20.6 points and 10.7 rebounds per game going into Saturday’s 4 p.m. Senior Day game against Elon at Kaplan Arena.

After declaring for the NBA Draft after last season, Knight evaluated the possibilities before deciding to return to W&M for his senior season to play for first-year coach Dane Fischer.

KNathan Knight (Photo courtesy of W&M Athletics)night will graduate in May with a degree in business and currently has a 3.19 grade point average after posting a 3.75 during the fall semester. He served as a student speaker at W&M’s scholarship luncheon during the fall, and this month he stressed the value of his academic experience as a factor in deciding to return for his final season.

“The rigor of being a student-athlete is definitely demanding, definitely challenging,” Knight said. “But I just take one day at a time, one assignment at a time, one practice at a time. And it’s been a really rewarding experience because it’s taught me a lot more than just books, a lot more than just basketball — just a lot about what I can do as an adult once that time comes.

“It’s going to be definitely a sigh of relief getting that degree, knowing I put in all that work and that it’s paying off for me. And definitely it’s going to bring some joy to my mom for sure, being able to graduate with my degree. That’s something she’s always wanted for me.”

Originally from Syracuse, New York, Knight credits his mother Joslyn with equipping him to handle anything that comes his way. He also said that his religious faith is very important to him.

Saying he doesn’t think parents are appreciated enough for all the things they do for their kids, Knight described how his mother raised four children by herself.

“She really gave me a blueprint to being successful because I come from very humble beginnings,” Knight said. “I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, a lot of tangible things. But the intangible lessons, the life lessons, my mom taught me.

“To this day, it’s just very applicable. And I don’t know where I’d be without her.”

This season, Knight became W&M’s go-to player at crucial times in games, and as team captain, he has taken on a leadership role that sets the tone.

Coach Dane Fischer (Photo courtesy of W&M Athletics)“He makes a lot of our jobs easier because when we’re struggling as a team, one of the solutions is always get the ball to Nate and let him make a play,” Fischer said. “When we need a big play late in the game, he’s always the guy that we’re going to try to go to first. When we need our team to play with a little bit more energy and need an effort play, he’s capable of doing that.

“So there’s so many things that he can do within our program, whether it’s in practice or in a game, that we can just rely on him because of how good of a player he is and how experienced he is.”

Knight said he talked with Fischer prior to the season about the importance of improving as a team leader.

“That’s probably the biggest role I stepped into, and it’s been really fun,” Knight said. “And it’s led to a lot of success for our team because it’s just special to play with this group of guys.”

Fischer said he felt that Knight’s willingness to shoulder the role was key to this season.

“He’s done a great job with this group from the start, and he’s been very focused on helping us win,” Fischer said. “And his biggest goal is to help this team win the CAA tournament and play in the NCAA Tournament. And he’s been very focused on that, and that’s really helped his leadership a lot.”

With W&M in contention for the CAA tournament title and its accompanying automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, Knight takes a measured approach to the attention that’s been building all season.

“I think the biggest thing for us is going to be staying the course, not letting our expectations get the best of us,” Knight said, adding that Fischer emphasizes controlling what the team can control.

“… And that’s going to be the biggest challenge for us because there’s excitement surrounding this program that I haven’t felt in a while. So that’s definitely going to be a big challenge for me, a big challenge to my teammates as well.”

In April, Knight will start looking again at professional basketball prospects he wants to pursue.

“I want to stay in basketball,” Knight said. “It’s been my whole life since before high school — so if I can stay around it coaching, use my degree while incorporating the basketball into it.

“I can’t really say. It’s all up to chance right now. So if the time is right, if the opportunity presents itself, my next step is hopefully to the NBA.”