MARYSVILLE — When the Marysville Getchell High School boys basketball team takes the hardwood, its opponents are more than aware of where Malakhi Knight is on the floor.
But that doesn’t mean they can stop him.
After a breakout sophomore campaign, the Chargers’ star junior faced double teams, box-and-one defenses and a handful of other schemes implemented to slow him down all season long. He responded by posting an even better year. Knight was efficient on offense, averaging 26.1 points per game while shooting 55% from the field, 36% from 3-point range and 82.6% from the foul line, and stuffed the stat sheet with 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.3 steals per contest. His contributions helped lead Marysville Getchell to its first-ever appearance at the Hardwood Classic and a program-best 17 wins.
For his effort, Knight is The Herald’s 2020 Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
“He’s a great kid, really fun to coach,” Chargers coach Corby Schuh said. “I’ve told him for me it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach an athlete like that. I’m just enjoying it and taking it day by day and just going to try and soak up the experience of being able to coach an athlete at that high level. It’s really fun.”
Knight’s scoring numbers have been prolific. He’s already far and away the Chargers’ career leader in points with 1,552, a pace that has the ultra-talented guard primed to join the 2,000-point club during his senior season.
The efficient way in which Knight is able to score was on display all winter long in gyms across Snohomish County. Meadowdale coach Roger O’Neill noted that Knight combined to go 19 of 25 from the field and scored 50 points over two matchups against O’Neill’s Mavericks, including a Class 3A Northwest District tournament winner-to-state, loser-out game when Knight netted 22 points and shot 8 of 12 from the field to lead Marysville Getchell to victory.
“We had a pretty good game plan for him the second time,” O’Neill said, “but he’s still going to find a way to dominate the game.”
It’s not all about scoring for Knight, though. One of the first things Schuh and opposing Wesco coaches highlight about Knight is his willingness to get teammates involved.
“I think the thing I admire most about the kid is he is so stinkin’ unselfish,” Everett coach Bobby Thompson said. “At times it’s held (his team) back because he so wants to get his other guys involved and he’s such a team player. You kind of wish he had more of a selfish edge to him where he wants to take over. I’ve never seen a guy have such quiet games where he’s hitting 26, 28, 29 (points) and you feel like he’s got about 12. That’s just kind of the way he plays, and he’s such a good teammate.”
Knight said that being a great player is about more than being a great scorer.
“I think for me it’s all about making the right play,” he said. “You gotta get your teammates involved, too, and get them going because if the whole team is going, it’s going to be better than one person going by himself. So definitely for me, it’s about making the right play all the time.”
But that doesn’t mean Knight won’t take over a game when his team needs him to.
With Marysville Getchell’s season on the line in a loser-out district tournament game against Arlington, Knight showed just how dominant he could be with a 21-point fourth-quarter outburst against the Eagles. Knight’s late-game heroics erased a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit and kept the Chargers’ state-tournament hopes alive. He finished the game with 41 points.
“I gotta tell myself to flip a switch,” Knight said of taking over late in games. “Now it’s time for me to be a little more selfish than in the rest of the game. I think my teammates know that and they trust me to be able to do that, which gives me more confidence.”
Still, his coach would like to see him be a little more selfish at times throughout the game.
“He hardly ever takes a bad shot,” Schuh said. “I try to push him to take more shots. Like, ‘It’s OK to miss, Malakhi. Go ahead and take some more shots.’”
The 17-year-old Knight pairs his unselfishness with a methodical style of play and basketball IQ on the court that are rare at the high school level.
“I don’t know him personally, but it seems like the mental side of the game, he’s way beyond his years,” O’Neill said. “It’s almost like he’s a 25-year-old playing out there because you can faceguard him, you can get physical with him, you can do whatever and the expression on his face never changes. He’s just out there going upon his business and you know he’s going to kick your butt and he’s not going to get too high or too low throughout the game, which makes it hard.
“There’s some really good players out there that on any give night you can maybe get in their head and take them out of their game. It’s just impossible with him.”
Knight credited his playing style to the patience he’s developed while becoming a standout on the baseball field. Knight is committed to play baseball for Oregon State University and was recently named one of the top-80 prospects in the country for the Class of 2021 by Major League Baseball Prospect Development Pipeline, which is determined by MLB and USA Baseball.
“Baseball is like a really slow-paced game,” Knight said, “and I kind of learned to transfer that over to basketball and kind of play at my own pace because I think if I go to fast, I’m more prone to make mistakes. So just playing my pace and staying within me has really helped me a lot, and baseball has taught me that.”
Knight said that he hasn’t received any offers to play basketball at the next level. That’s likely due to the fact that Knight is already committed to play baseball at the next level and doesn’t play on the AAU basketball circuit where many athletes gain their hype on the recruiting trail.
“There’s no question,” Thompson said about Knight being a NCAA Division I-caliber basketball player. “I think that if he turned out tomorrow and that he was refocusing his energies on basketball, he’d have most mid-majors, D-Is and a lot of Pac-12 schools giving him a phone call instantly. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”
His coach agrees.
“In my opinion, he could be a point guard at the Division-I level,” Schuh said. “No question about it.”
Playing basketball in college may not be in the cards after high school for Knight because of his commitment to baseball, but he’ll be around for one more year to terrorize Wesco opponents on the basketball court.
“I don’t say these things lightly. I kind of grew up watching Wesco basketball my whole life and then played in it (at Meadowdale) and then have been a coach for JV or varsity for seven years now,” O’Neill said, “and in terms of the best players — the players of the year, if you will, in Wesco — if there was like a fantasy draft or something, I’d probably take him number one.
“… There’s been great players to come through this league over the past decade or so, but I just don’t see how you put anyone ahead of him, and it’s scary that he still has a season left. I’ve never been more impressed by a high schooler, I think, than by Malakhi Knight, and the fact that he’s better at another sport is ridiculous, too.”