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Two-sport Cat stands out for his teammates

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POSTED: July 26, 2014 11:00 a.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Apalachee senior Kent Knowles is a two-sport starter in football and basketball and hopes to see both of his team's succeed in the upcoming year.

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One of Apalachee’s finest two-sport athletes experienced a bit of a dichotomous junior season while taking part in simultaneously disappointing and exhilarating seasons.

Kent Knowles plays receiver and corner for the Apalachee Wildcats football team, but he also features heavily as a starter for Apalachee’s basketball team. Last year’s football Wildcats struggled through a 0-10 finish, but the basketball team entered the state playoffs as the second team out of a talented Region 8-AAAAA after facing Clarke Central in the region finals.

With his two favorite sports ending up on such opposite ends of the spectrum, Knowles went through quite the gamut of emotions in athletics during the 2013-14 academic and athletic year.

In keeping with his vastly different seasons last year, Knowles’ introduction to both sports was equally diverse. His love of football, for one, goes way back.

“I was pushing to it at an early age. My dad used to play with me and then I just really fell in love with and continued with it,” Knowles reminisced.

Knowles’ basketball career started even more informally, though, as he says it just happened one day.

“Nobody really drove me for basketball. I just kind of picked it up one day and realized I was pretty good at it,” Knowles added.

Knowles is a two-way starter for the Wildcat football team. On defense from the corner position, Knowles accrued 41 tackles with two interceptions and two pass breakups last season. On the other side of the ball, he hauled in 240 yards on 15 receptions and one touchdown.

While some athletes may balk at the heavy load of starting both ways, the upcoming senior enjoys his responsibilities on offense and defense.

“I like to catch the ball. I like to be a receiver,” Knowles said. “Defensively, I like to guard receivers. I can combo positions so that what I learn from receiver I can use at corner to help me better guard receivers.

“The next play could always be a big play at receiver, you know throwing it deep or taking it all the way. I like to be at those positions to help my team win.”

Even as difficult as playing both ways can be, the hardest part of last season for Knowles was not winning. 

“It was tough. It’s always tough not winning any games,” Knowles acknowledged. “Just the monotony of it, of just losing and losing and losing and just trying to get past that and win a game was tough.

“At the same time, I think we built a camaraderie with each other,” Knowles mentioned, pointing out one positive element of the otherwise regrettable 2013 football season.

With the memories of last season’s disappointment still fresh in his mind, Knowles and his Wildcat teammates look to improve tremendously headed into 2014.

“We’re going to push at it this year. I think we’re going to make a run,” Knowles suggested. “We have more sense of urgency, I would say. We’re not trying to repeat last year, definitely. We’re just working to improve on what we did accomplish last year.”

Both Coach Shane Davis for the Apalachee football team and Kevin Morris of the Wildcat basketball team exalt Knowles as a high character, high moral student who always puts his team first.

True to form, Knowles also speaks highly of his team and consistently puts the focus back on the men surrounding him.

“As a team, we obviously want to win every game. It’s not always the most likely situation, but we’re going to go into every game trying to win,” Knowles explained. “Personally, I don’t really have any goals. I just want to help my team win. I’m not the individual stats kind of guy.”

The same is true for basketball where Knowles is often regarded as a great ball distributor and offense manager. Morris frequently compliments Knowles on his ability to spread the ball around and put people in play while understanding an opposing team’s defense.

For his efforts, Knowles was an All-Area honorable mention for the 2013-14 season and was also named to the Region 8-AAAAA All-Region team.

“Everything’s under control. I’m not going to try and get wild and do something that’s not me. I’m going to try and get the ball to my teammates, because that’s mainly what my job is,” Knowles acknowledged.

Even while trying to spread the ball to his teammates, Knowles amassed 292 points on the court this past season with an average of 12.7 points per game on a 47 percent field goal percentage. 

“It was really fun compared to the year before where we had some ego issues, I would say,” Knowles mentioned. “This year we didn’t have anybody with attitude. It was all about the team first, going in and winning. It was a really fun season.”

With most of last year’s starters returning, Knowles included, the Wildcats have some clear cut goals for what they want to see happen in 2014-15.

“We want to go deeper into state, definitely. We know we’re better than a first-round loss at state, so we’ll try to make a better run this year,” Knowles said.

Last year’s Apalachee team lost a 70-64 heartbreaker to ML King out of Region 6-AAAAA. Although the Wildcats were hosting and were the higher-seeded team, ML King was also a top 10 team in the state according to some polls and came out of what is probably the most difficult region in the state. 

Through sheer luck, Apalachee’s region paired up with perhaps the toughest possible all-around competition in the state. So, the Wildcats played a top-tier team in the first round.

While that was a frustrating experience for Knowles, it was still an enjoyable game.

“You can’t really help that. We just go out on the court and play who we have to play. Knowing that it was a good team, we accepted the challenge,” Knowles explained. “I thought we were good. We should have won, to be honest.”

The playoffs were a difficult memory for Knowles and the Wildcats, but his favorite so far has been the wins over Winder. 

In the last two years, Apalachee has swept four straight games against the Bulldoggs, and Knowles loves it.

"It's always fun beating your cross-town rival," Knowles admitted.

Although he spends much of the year playing both sports and enjoys getting on both the court and the field, Knowles admits that his love for basketball probably gives it a slight edge over football.

“It’s up there. Other than school, it’s right below school,” Knowles mentioned.

Being a starter in two varsity sports can be quite the time sink and can often detract from academics, but Knowles never seems to let it bother him. According to coaches at Apalachee, Knowles is honored for his commitment to excellence, both athletic and academic. 

He currently holds a 3.80 GPA and is among the top 50 students in his graduating class of more than 380, all of which bodes well for his future hopes and dreams. Knowles plans on not just attending college, but he also hopes to keep playing basketball well into his future.

“I definitely want to play in college. I don’t know where that will be, but I definitely want to work on my studies and play basketball in college. That’s my goal,” Knowles acknowledged.

Before that time, though, Knowles gets to enjoy his senior year and take one more trip around the sun as an Apalachee Wildcat.

When that time is all said and done, he knows exactly what he wants his legacy to be, and it all comes down to one word: team.

“I want to know that I have done all I can individually and team wise,” Knowles noted. “I want to leave my mark on the school like everyone else does.”

 

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