“La Familia” Helps Make Karter Knox the Latest Hog, Could Soon Sway Others

Karter Knox, Arkansas basketball, Kentucky basketball, John Calipari
photo credit: Nick Wenger/SportsCenter Next / Kentucky Athletics

The once-vacant Arkansas basketball roster is starting to take shape, as new head coach John Calipari tapped into his existing relationships once again to land the commitment of Karter Knox on Monday.

A five-star recruit in the 2024 class, Knox plays in the Overtime Elite league based in Atlanta, but is originally from Riverview, Fla. He previously committed to Kentucky on March 9 before retracting his pledge less than a month later when Calipari left to coach the Razorbacks.

The announcement comes on the heels of the 6-foot-5 wing taking an official visit to Fayetteville and ends what many have long thought to be a foregone conclusion.

After all, a change to Knox’s bio on Instagram was spotted back on April 11 that was either a reference to Knox’s affinity to a certain kind of McDonald’s sandwich or to Arkansas booster John Tyson, depending on how you look at it. Speculation immediately took off about him flipping and, sure enough, that news came to fruition.

The 18-year-old is a capable scorer from all three levels, according to 247Sports’ scouting report. At 225 pounds, Knox has a burly build that allows him to be strong driving to the rim and at times evokes prime Mason Jones, the former Arkansas basketball star who took home SEC Player of the Year honors. Knox has above-average length and athleticism, and has a solid pull-up jumper in his game.

So much so, in fact, that he set this Nike EYBL scoring record over the course of the last few years:

A consensus top-25 recruit, Knox is ranked as high as No. 19 nationally by On3. He checks in at No. 20 on 247Sports, No. 21 on Rivals and No. 24 on ESPN. In the 247Sports Composite, which factors in each of those services, he is a five-star prospect and No. 22 overall.

Kentucky-to-Arkansas Pipeline Open for Business

With Karter Knox’s commitment to Arkansas, both of the Razorbacks’ scholarship players for next season are Kentucky defectors, as he joins Zvonimir Ivisic. With John Calipari having a full 13 spots to fill, he’s clearly turning to what he knows as his first priority.

Before Calipari’s departure, the Wildcats had the No. 2 recruiting class in the country for the class of 2024. Fast forward to today, and they have plummeted to 60th. 

The Wildcats’ lone remaining commitment is from four-star guard Travis Perry. Knox, fellow five-stars Jayden Quaintance, Boogie Fland, Billy Richmond III and four-star Somto Cyril have all decommitted or asked to be released from their letters of intent in the last month.

Calipari is obviously on the hunt to bring these recruits to Fayetteville with him as he builds a roster that should be a favorite to make the Sweet 16 in the 2025 NCAA Tournament according to most every reputable casino. That should be abetted by Kentucky’s rather underwhelming hire of Mark Pope. The Razorback coach has won the first two recruiting battles against Pope with Knox and Ivisic, and the sparring match will be ongoing for the remaining recruits’ signatures.

Their decisions will reflect whether they have been more committed to the University of Kentucky or to Calipari himself.

The case of Cyril is an interesting one, as the big man is currently teammates with Knox in the Overtime Elite league in Atlanta. Calipari is clearly in pursuit of the duo, as he was in attendance for the team’s showcase last week. With his teammate now on board, it’s very possible that Cyril could also be persuaded to join the Razorbacks.

Quaintance is focusing on Louisville, Memphis and Arkansas, he told college basketball insider Adam Zagoria, with plans to visit all three. The Hogs are also rumored to be heavily in the mix for Richmond. Fland has said that his recruiting is wide open, with many schools in pursuit of him.

It’s a Family Thing for Knox

Karter Knox is the younger brother of Kevin Knox, who played for Calipari at Kentucky and led the team in scoring in 2017-18 with 15.9 points per game. That earned the elder Knox first-team All-SEC honors and made him a one-and-done prospect, with the New York Knicks taking him ninth overall in the 2018 NBA Draft.

As the second McDonald’s All-American in the family, the younger Knox is following in his older brother’s footsteps by playing under Calipari. Life is all about connections, and the most dominant basketball recruiter of all-time has taken that saying to heart in his roster-building over the years.

It’s not the first time the new Head Hog has leveraged his prior relationships, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Last year, Calipari secured the services of DJ Wagner, one of the top prospects in the Class of 2023. DJ’s father, Dajuan Wagner, was a standout one-and-done star for Calipari at Memphis before he was selected No. 6 overall in the 2002 NBA Draft. If the coach who’s recruiting you is the same guy who made your dad a millionaire, it’s going be pretty hard to say “no” to his pitch.

Diving even deeper, Coach Cal made a controversial maneuver in Dajuan’s recruitment more than two decades ago by hiring his father, Milt, as his director of basketball operations at Memphis. Surely that was a purely basketball decision that had nothing to do with his last name, right?

The move was heavily scrutinized at the time, but regardless of the ethics, it shows one of Calipari’s top priorities in recruiting that likely stems from his Italian heritage: the importance of family. Don’t take it from me, take it from Cal himself, who once labeled his operation at Kentucky as “La Familia”. That’s just begging for a Sopranos reference.

“There are times I get mad and want to strangle somebody, and then I go to Mass and say, Stop me from having this feeling that I want to absolutely punch this guy in the face,” Calipari told Sports Illustrated more than 12 years ago. “I’m from Pittsburgh. You come at me? I come at you twice. You hurt one of mine? I’m burning your village.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that quote came from a mob boss rather than a college basketball coach.

It goes even further. Adou Thiero, a 6-foot-8 wing who spent the last two years at Kentucky? His father, Almany, also played for Calipari at Memphis. One of the elder Thiero’s teammates on the Tigers was Billy Richmond II, the father of the previously-mentioned Billy Richmond III.

Wagner and Thiero are currently both in the transfer portal, and Richmond III is back on the market, as well. It’s probably safe to assume Calipari will leverage those family ties once again to continue stocking the Arkansas basketball roster. 

Indeed, Thiero has already included the Razorbacks in his top 5 alongside Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Indiana and a return to Kentucky. Some experts, meanwhille, are already predicting Wagner to follow his former coach to Fayetteville.


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