Emorie Knox can confidently call himself the star player.
It’s a title that not all that long ago may have made him uncomfortable, the quiet point guard struggling to digest the expectations attached to it. Back then, he just wanted to play basketball at the highest levels to prove he was even good enough to be there.
Now? He verbalizes the demands of a strict coach, a team depending on his abilities and the inner drive that earned him his place in Myrtle Beach boys basketball history.
“I always had a different work ethic. Every day, I just go in, work hard and put my blood, sweat and tears into my craft,” Knox said. “It’s like painting a picture. It takes time and there’s different techniques. There are different things you have to learn. This is just my craft.”
Knox’s attention to detail landed him an all-state nod and a place on the roster of the Carolinas Classic all-star game. Weeks after that game, he’ll graduate from Myrtle Beach and head two hours south for an NCAA Division-I scholarship at Charleston Southern, where as early as next year he’ll be asked to help run the floor for the Buccaneers and head coach Barclay Radebaugh.
But first, he’ll get to do so one more time for Myrtle Beach. The Seahawks will face Ridge View in the Class 4A finals on Saturday at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. It will be the biggest environment Knox has ever suited up in — by far — against a squad that has won back-to-back state championships and for all but one week of the 2019-2020 regular season was the No. 1 team in the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association state polls.
Long odds, perhaps.
Something Knox knows all too well from his start in prep basketball.
TESTED BY FIRE
After only a few practices with a then-seventh-grade Knox, Myrtle Beach coach Craig Martin started asking around the recreation circles.
Knox was big for his age but small for varsity ball. Yet Martin had an idea and needed to do his due diligence. Six-plus years later, Martin still won’t say who, but a rep from the city’s youth leagues told him Knox wasn’t much of a player.
The coach disagreed, so much that he approached Knox’s mother about playing for the Seahawks’ top squad that year.
“We needed him to play that position and we knew he was going to be special,” Martin said. “I wanted him to take those bumps and bruises.”
After some initial pushback, Martin got his wish a year later. Knox didn’t just log garbage time as an eighth grader. He started and was on the floor for more than three quarters of every minute for Myrtle Beach that season. It wasn’t always easy.
While Knox now stands a solid 6-feet tall, as an eighth grader, he was all of 5-foot-7 and no more than 110 pounds. Older opponents freely made fun of his age and size during games, and given that Myrtle Beach won just eight games that year, they usually ended up getting the last laugh, too.
Knox coped by keeping his head up and his mouth shut.
“It was very overwhelming from the start,” he said. “But that was a team. Everyone took me under their wing and showed me the way. I thank them for that. That’s why I’m here today. That impacted my game a significant amount. Playing against bigger bodies everyday, playing against better competition than I’d regularly play, that helped me throughout high school.”
Even in those early days, Knox was always fast. Martin has routinely said that the guard is the quickest player from free-throw line to free-throw line he’s ever coached. And this week, Martin added that either via the dribble or pass, no player he’s ever had can push tempo quite like Knox.
Junior Ayden Hickman has caught his fair share of those zipped passes and likened it to being a football receiver, one of the aspects of Knox’s game that started attracting college scouts. The other was how he had learned how to take (and initiate) contact without fearing it against bigger competition during his undersized years on the varsity. It was on display last week when Knox challenged 6-foot-10 A.C. Flora center Patrick Iriel around the rim during the lower state championship game in Florence.
It was the same tenacity that fellow senior James Marques used to see during middle school in whichever pickup game the two were playing.
“He was so crafty and shifty playing on the street, punking everybody, beating everybody,” Marques said. “Everyone wanted to [pick] him first for their team. He had the potential of being pretty good.”
Said Hickman: “It made him mature a lot earlier. Playing with other people, he had to learn to use the things that God gave him. He’s probably the fastest guy on the court. Any court.”
TIME AND PRESSURE
The funny thing about all of his development is that Knox never really changed his approach to his verbal side.
While he grew into a body that now resembles that of a college guard, he’s still pretty quiet. During a game a few weeks back, a teammate even responded with a resounding “What?” when Knox said something to him.
“We see him working hard, we work hard,” Hickman said. “He doesn’t have to say too much.”
Knox’s production takes care of all that.
He’s going to finish his senior year as the second-leading scorer in Horry County (behind only Conway’s Tonka Hemingway) while leading the area in assists. On Saturday, he’s going to eclipse the 1,600-point career scoring mark to go along with what is currently 465 assists in a Seahawk uniform.
It’s probably not enough for the high school to eventually hang a Ramon Sessions-style banner of him in the gym one day. However, if Myrtle Beach is able to add a sixth state championship to its trophy case, it will likely be because Knox had an outstanding game against Ridge View.
The years of trust between player and coach, then, have presented an enormous opportunity.
“I don’t think I ever doubted him. I just expected more,” Martin said. “That’s one of the issues that I have; I tend to push kids extremely hard because I see something special. I don’t think I ever doubted Emorie. It’s that my expectations were so high.”
Martin envisioned the only eighth grader to ever play on his varsity team would earn a full-ride scholarship, and he hoped that Knox’s final high school game would take place in Columbia.
For Knox, that last part is the final reward of high school basketball still within his reach. It’s also the further proof of why he put everything he had into his craft.
“It just shows you what work over the years can do for you,” he said. “It shows you that all the hours you put into the gym pays off.”