Destined for the hardwood
Ciara Knox couldn't have felt more at home.
In a matter of two weeks in March, she played in a pair of all-star basketball games and showed off her court prowess. It wasn't surprising Knox was chosen to compete in the games since she is one of the best senior girls basketball players in the Miami-Dade County area.
Knox capped off her high school hoops career at Southridge (Miami) by playing in the 23rd-annual Broward County vs. Miami-Dade County All-Star Game on March 3. Two weekends later, she competed in the South Florida Select All-Star Game.
Knox played well in both games as a point/shooting guard. She had seven points and nine assists in the Broward-Dade game and in the select contest, she logged 16 points, eight assists and five rebounds; she also won the event's 3-point shooting contest.
"She really enjoyed that. She liked playing in them," said her mom, Jennifer Knox. "If she could play in an All-Star game every day, she would love it. If she could play a basketball game every day, she would love it."
A humble kid, Knox was gracious to get an opportunity to play in the big area events.
"Privileged and happy to be even recommended to play in it," she said.
While some players in All-Star games clown around and don't take the action too serious, Knox was using the exposure as an audition for playing at the next level. She's currently narrowing down her college choices for next year.
"I think it gives colleges a better look at her, because I think when kids play just in high school you don't really see a whole lot of potential because you have some mediocre girls," Jennifer Knox said. "When you play with other All-Star girls, you have to step up to a whole new level. The whole entire game you have to play your 'A' game."
Knox calls her school choices "wide open" right now and is getting recruited by programs such as South Methodist University, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Greensboro, Furman, North Florida and Albany State. She's looking to play basketball and major in criminology with the dream of becoming a forensic anthropologist. Knox plans to make her college decision sometime in the next month.
The 5-foot-7 Knox was a four-year starter for the Spartans. She was the epitome of consistent on the court. For her career, she averaged 11.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 4.7 steals. Her stats were nearly identical as a senior: 11.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 4.5 steals.
"She would fill in the blanks wherever we would need her," Southridge coach Jamahr Carter said. "When we would play small-ball, she would move to the 4 position. I could move her around quite a bit."
Knox's versatility is one of her greatest attributes on the court.
"I like to compare her to Klay Thompson," Carter said. "She shoots the 3-ball very well; she defends. She puts the ball on the floor and creates from time to time. She's a pure leader on and off the floor."
Knox had a great senior campaign, helping Southridge win the district title in Class 9A. The team ended its season in the regional quarterfinals.
"Ciara sacrificed a lot to get the team concept for us to be able to win," Carter said.
Knox has been addicted to basketball since she was a young girl. Her mom remembers her daughter trying to dribble a regulation-sized basketball at 2.
"She had a little skirt on, she picked up a ball. We were like, 'What in the world?'" Jennifer Knox said. "She tried dribbling it. Then she picked it up and then she really started dribbling it about 4."
Jennifer Knox got her daughter involved in cheerleading and soccer to expose her to a variety of activities to gauge her interest. Her daughter didn't want to compete in anything but basketball.
"If she could play a basketball game every day, she would love it"
She grew up near Oklahoma City before moving to south Florida when she was 11. The Miami area was a good place to hone her basketball skills. After two years of playing high school basketball at Southridge, Knox joined the Lady Shottas after her sophomore season. After that squad folded, Knox played for the AAU team FGB Elite out of Jacksonville, which is a 350-mile trek from Miami. She traveled to Las Vegas and Tennessee, among other places, to take on the best players in the country.
Playing on the AAU circuit helped Knox's game immensely.
"I think it gave her a little bit more confidence in her game," her mother said. "Her whole demeanor changed and her defense did as well. She picked up on her defense, and her offense got better, too."
Coach Carter calls Knox a natural-born leader. She knows how to keep her teammates involved in a game and having them playing their best.
"She calls her own team meetings," Carter said. "She sends out these motivational texts in our group chat, that type of thing."
Knox -- who volunteers her time as an assistant basketball coach with her dad, Jason, teaching young players the game -- is a leader away from the court as well. She has posted a 3.8 grade point average throughout her four years in high school and ranks in the top 6 percent of her class. She is currently taking honors, advanced and dual enrollment courses, earning college credit.
"I've never seen her slacking in the classroom," Carter said. "Before games, she would do her homework when it's quiet time and we're having some downtime, eating pregame meal. You could catch her doing her homework. Staying up late after games making sure the classroom was taken care of. She's the true definition of a student-athlete."
Along with keeping busy with basketball and hitting the books, Knox has taken part for two years in her school's Peace Ambassador program. She is one of 10 seniors at Southridge who was hand-picked by the principal. Those students are paired up with students from other area schools to fill out the program.
"Being a part of Peace Ambassadors helps her to give back to the community," Jennifer Knox said. "It may not be monetary, but she goes out and talks to kids and try and keep them from doing the wrong thing out in the streets, trying to promote peace and non-violence in the schools, teaching kids to be nice to each other and not be mean all the time."
Every other month, the students involved in Peace Ambassadors have a special assignment to undertake. Last month, Knox and her fellow community advocates spoke to over 300 kids. In previous months, the group gathered canned food for the homeless and held a gun drive to get firearms off the streets.
Keeping peace around Miami is important to Knox. Southridge isn't located in the best neighborhood, so Knox knows first hand what students are going through on a daily basis. She enjoys helping make the community a better place.
"It's means a lot, like I'm making God happy," she said.