Lakeland’s Knight emerges as leader

Published 9:19 pm Saturday, December 8, 2012

In the first week of the boys’ basketball season, Lakeland freshman forward Deonta Knight has emerged as a leader for the team, receiving the most votes last week to become the Suffolk News-Herald’s Player of the Week.

He nearly logged a triple-double in the first game of the season for the Cavaliers with 15 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals in the win against Hickory and 12 points and eight rebounds against Churchland. He had another double-double against Deep Creek with 16 points and 14 rebounds and finished the week with a team-leading 16 points against Hertford County. The Cavaliers went 4-0 for the week.

Lakeland freshman forward Deonta Knight averaged 14.8 points per game in the first week of the season for the varsity basketball team, helping to lead it to a 4-0 record. He received 134 more votes than the nearest nominee to become the Player of the Week.

Knight did not anticipate that he would make this kind of impact on the varsity team this early.

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“No, I didn’t expect it, but I knew I was going to be a threat, though,” he said.

Head coach Clint Wright had an idea what was coming his way.

“Historically, he was a phenomenal player at the (junior varsity) level and it was just a matter of time,” Wright said. “His position didn’t really change. He was a low post guy that scored quite a bit of points.”

Surprisingly, Knight’s organized basketball history is quite short.

“My first (time) really playing organized basketball was JV when I played last year. I used to play around the neighborhood, like pick-up games,” he said.

He credits his uncle, Leroy Skinner, for getting him to start playing when he was 11.

Knight acknowledges that hard work has helped to get him where he is, particularly his participation in Coach Wright’s open gyms that started three weeks before the season began.

“Being the first one in and last one out,” Knight said.

Wright reflected thoroughly upon Knight’s potential, explaining that for now, the freshman is doing what he’s instructed to do on the court.

“Pretty soon, though, he’s going to be doing something that’s very instinctive,” Wright said. “It’s going to make him even more dangerous. He played Saturday against Hertford County, had one or two three-pointers, has the capacity to do that, can handle the basketball. The sky’s the limit with this kid, and naturally, staying academically sound, he can do a lot of great things indeed.”

Wright also praised Knight’s demeanor; he’s a freshman that possesses a surprising amount of maturity for his age. Knight knows who to thank for that.

“My momma,” he said. “She’s just telling me, she’s like, ‘You got to play. You got to stand out.’ Every game, I try to stand out.”

Knight also plays baseball. Though his experience has been limited thus far to playing in a church league, he is considering trying out for Lakeland this spring.

Basketball is his favorite of the two sports, and he hopes to play it at the college level, possibly for Duke University. But he acknowledged that he must keep his priority on academics.

“You can go anywhere and just play basketball, but a dummy can play basketball,” he said. “I got to get my grades right.”

He indicated what his motivation is when he takes the court.

“My team, and when I look up there I see my sister, my two sisters,” he said. “They drive a ways from college just to see me, so I got to do my thing. I don’t want them to come just for nothing. It’s a waste of gas.”

His sisters, Takeya and Martesha Skinner, who both contributed to his 651 votes, have had plenty to cheer for.


Following are this week’s Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week nominees:

  • Ed Drew, senior forward for Nansemond River basketball — His inside presence was crucial to the Warriors’ ability to pull away from the Cavaliers as he scored 18 points with 13 rebounds and four blocks. He also had 16 points and 13 rebounds against Deep Creek on Friday night.
  • Devon Oakley, junior guard for Nansemond River basketball — He continues to be a leader in scoring for his team and posted an incredible stat line against Lakeland: 19 points, nine rebounds, six assists, five steals, three blocks and six defensive deflections. He also led his team with 22 points and five assists against Deep Creek and provided suffocating defense on the Hornets’ leading scorer.
  • Jessica Pieroni, junior guard for Nansemond-Suffolk basketball — She led her team with 23 points — 14 in the second quarter — against Windsor en route to a blowout victory. Later in the week against Peninsula Catholic, she led her team with 18 points playing limited minutes during another lopsided win.
  • Harper Birdsong, freshman guard for Nansemond-Suffolk basketball — She posted a double-double against Windsor with 10 points and 10 assists, also contributing five steals on defense. Against Peninsula Catholic, she continued to distribute the ball well, with nine assists to go with five rebounds.

Vote by 7 p.m. Wednesday by sending an email with the subject “Player of the Week” to You can also vote on our Facebook page and on the Suffolk News-Herald homepage.

Next Sunday, we’ll feature the readers’ choice in a story on the sports page.

Spread the word.