South Florida Showdown: Kenny Boynton vs. Brandon Knight

South Florida Showdown: Kenny Boynton vs. Brandon Knight
Jan 29, 2008, 02:01 am
The top two high school prospects in the state of Florida met up this past weekend when District 14-3A rivals American Heritage and Pine Crest clashed in an intriguing matchup in the city of Fort Lauderdale. Brandon Knight, considered by some to be the top sophomore in the entire country, and Kenny Boynton, a top-10 ranked junior according to Scout and, went at it in front of a packed gym of rowdy Pine Crest students and fascinated high school hoops junkies. Boynton and Knight are summertime teammates on the AAU circuit with Team Breakdown, the 17U AAU national champions in fact.

Boynton and Knight’s teammate on Breakdown this past summer, senior Eloy Vargas (#30 Scout, #10 Rivals; committed to Florida), was forced to sit out this game due to a school imposed suspension. The 6-9 power forward foolishly decided to boycott his team’s nationally televised matchup with Miami Monsignor Pace on ESPNU as an act of solidarity to support his teammate Ray Taylor, who won the State championship with Pace last year but was not awarded a ring for his efforts. We had the chance to evaluate Vargas earlier this year when American Heritage matched up with Tyreke Evans’ American Christian Academy, and came away less than impressed by the toughness and attitude the highly touted prospect displayed on the court. American Heritage in general has been underachieving badly all season long, winning just 9 of their last 16 games, and clearly suffering from a lack of team chemistry.

Fortunately for us, this particular matchup between Pine Crest and American Heritage did not develop into a one on one duel between Kenny Boynton and Brandon Knight for State supremacy bragging rights. It was actually an entertaining game, with a terrific atmosphere, although Pine Crest finally pulled away in the fourth quarter to get the important home victory, 86-70.

Brandon Knight, 6-3, Point Guard, Sophomore, Pine Crest
34 points, 8 assists, 10 rebounds

Brandon Knight (#3 Scout, #2 Rivals), only a high school sophomore, is already an incredibly complete player for his age. He was forced to sit out for a few months until just three weeks ago after undergoing back surgery, but looked to be in pretty good shape on Friday.

Knight has excellent size for the point guard position, and a frame that should fill out in time. The first thing that stands out about him is the terrific feel for the game he displays on the basketball court. The sophomore plays under control for the most part, looking extremely mature for a player his age, and rarely forcing the issue offensively. He understands the game, reads the floor well, and looks to get all his teammates involved, handling the ball extremely well, and creating shots intelligently for both himself and others thanks to his excellent court vision. His demeanor on the floor is terrific—unselfish, poised, and active—everything we can see and have heard speaks volumes about his character, which is incredibly important for a highly regarded player this young, trying to stay on top.

Offensively, Knight can get to the basket with either hand, showing great timing and a knack for getting his shot off in a variety of ways, particularly with a pretty right-handed floater. He has 3-point range on his shot, but still needs to get more consistent with this part of his game over the next few years. He looked solid in warm-ups, but could still stand to improve his range and get better shooting the ball off the dribble. He’s extremely intelligent in transition, maybe unselfish to a fault at times. Getting stronger will help him finishing around the rim against stronger competition. He didn’t show much of a mid-range game in this particular outing either.

Defensively, Knight is extremely impressive, getting right in his man’s face, and putting terrific pressure on the ball. He has excellent hands in the passing lanes, and is very active looking to make things happen. On one particular possession he went out and grabbed three separate offensive rebounds, until he finally managed to put the ball in the basket.

Although it might be a little early to judge (particularly considering that he just returned to the court after back surgery), at this stage it doesn’t appear that Knight is the most explosive athlete you’ll find. His first step is good, but not incredible, and his vertical leap is just solid. Watching him play, you don’t get the feeling that he has unlimited upside.

Knight appears to be on the right track to developing into a terrific basketball player. His experience and all-around skill-level still need plenty of work, but he’s a pretty impressive prospect considering his age. He would be wise to continue and develop his point guard skills, as he might be tempted to dominate high school games with his scoring against weaker competition over the next few years, but in the long run it’ll surely pay off for him to be a pass-first playmaker who can also score when needed.

Kenny Boynton, 6-2, Shooting Guard, Junior, American Heritage
40 points, 2 assists

Widely considered one of the top shooting guards in the class of 2009, Kenny Boynton (#9 Scout, #7 Rivals), has a long list of schools vying for his services—including Duke, Florida, Ohio State, Texas, and many others.

We’re talking about a pure scorer in the Dajuan Wagner mold, a shooting guard in a point guard’s body essentially, who doesn’t appear very close to making the transition any time soon. Boynton is built well for his size, standing a bulky 6-2, with long arms and very good athleticism. He has excellent quickness, but rarely takes the ball all the way to the basket, instead relying on his perimeter stroke as his main source of production.

Boynton is as pure a shooter as you’ll find at this level, although his percentages probably wouldn’t tell you that due to the sheer volume of shots he attempts every game. He has a terrific stroke regardless, with a quick release, excellent rotation, and range that extends well past the high school 3-point line. He can hit shots coming off screens or pulling up off the dribble, although he clearly abuses this skill. He creates his own shot extremely well, and at this level, mostly looks for a glimmer of daylight in which to pull-up from mid-range or behind the arc, showing absolutely no conscious with his shot-selection, both in the game we evaluated him against Pine Crest (missing his team’s other two best players), as well as against American Christian, when American Heritage was at full strength. When he’s on, though, his shot is simply a thing of beauty, capable of single-handedly keeping his team in the game as he showed in the first quarter here, with four long-range bombs in a span of a few short minutes.

Boynton plays a frenetic style, not really aided by the very little coaching he receives from the sidelines. He’s a good ball-handler, but has a tendency to force the issue here as well, attempting to split double-teams wildly when trapped off the pick and roll (rather than simply find the open man), and thus being very turnover prone. The whole circus that seems to surround his team doesn’t appear to be helping much—his father (a police officer, ironically) at one point came almost all the way out onto the floor screaming at the referees, the opposing coach, and anyone else that would listen after his son took an inadvertent elbow from one of the younger players on the opposing team. It was quite an embarrassing scene considering that Duke Assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski was in attendance.

Boynton seems to get frustrated very easily when things don’t go his way, a trend we noticed in both games we evaluated, especially when he’s being defended by tough defenders who do not give him space to get his shot off cleanly. He’ll let his teammates know how unhappy he is if they dare refuse to pass the ball on any given possession, and looked very frustrated standing on the free throw line trying to gather himself—bricking more shots than he made from what we saw. His body language is extremely poor, usually walking around sporting an extremely sour look on his face, especially when things aren’t going his way.

Defensively, Boynton offers very little on this end of the floor. He doesn’t put in much effort at all, and clearly has poor fundamentals, gambling for steals, and giving his matchup too much space out on the perimeter. Tyreke Evans did with him as he pleased seemingly, and at some point just seemed to be toying with him, which resulted in a technical foul.

Despite all the negatives expressed here, there still might be some room for optimism regarding Boynton’s future if he can somehow adjust his mentality and become more of a team player. He’s a strong, tough, athletic combo guard who plays extremely hard and has terrific range on his shot, something that a lot of colleges can use, as evidenced by the impressive list of schools that are after him. He’s still very young too. It’s possible that a good coach can help bring out the potential he has, but it will take a few tough years in college at the very least.

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