When the Mountain Pointe boys basketball team huddles, Stevie Knox can get lost in the crowd.
But the 5-foot-9 junior stands out when he is at the free throw line.
“During the summer he had a chance to beat Mesa with a free throw,” Mountain Pointe coach Brian Fleming said. “From that day forward he’s had confidence and he’s just been shooting lights out from the free throw line.”
That can create a lot of pressure, standing alone at the line when the game can be on the line.
“I don’t hear anything,” Knox explained. “I don’t hear the crowd or anything. I just concentrate on making the best shot I can.”
And, after playing as a backup to Jahii Carson, the team’s leading scorer last season, Knox has the confidence that he can put the ball in the hoop from the free throw line.
He claims his talent from the line isn’t natural.
“No,” Knox added, “it takes a lot of work, but going to the line I know I can make that free throw. I’ve been playing organized ball since I was 8 and I’m used to it. I’d rather do that than dunk.”
If Knox does dunk the ball through the hoop this season it could make a Pride highlight film.
“I haven’t done it yet, but I’m getting closer,” he added with a grin.
While teams are learning not to give Knox a chance to go to the line, he isn’t hesitant to get in a shooter’s face on defense.
“I like playing defense,” he said. “It’s a big part of the game and it can make a difference.”
That’s not just a line to appease coaches, Fleming said.
“Stevie really does like playing defense, shutting a guy down and trying to get a steal,” Fleming added, “and he’s pretty good at it.”
Usually players Knox’s size are better at the line than the taller, inside players.
“I have no idea why,” Knox said. “Maybe because their hands are bigger. I can almost palm the ball, but I can’t hold it like they can either.”
There is something to that, Fleming added.
“Bigger guys have bigger hands,” Fleming said, “and the ball sits back in the palm instead of the fingers. You have to learn how to show free throws. Your muscles remember what it takes to make that basket from 15 or 19 feet.”
Last season, when the Pride went 11-15, Knox made 60 percent of his free throws.
This year Mountain Pointe is 7-2 going into the Visit Mesa.com Basketball Challenge tournament starting Dec. 28 at Mesa Mountain View High School.
“This season is going to be better,” Knox said. “I really think we can win state this year.”