Cleanthony Early calls being drafted by Knicks ‘a blessing’

Cleanthony Early
Cleanthony Early led the Shockers to an undefeated 2013-14 regular season.
Credit: Getty Images

As the Knicks await the midnight commencement of free agency and the fate of Carmelo Anthony, the journey of rookie swingman Cleanthony Early has just begun.

Early, the team’s first pick of the 2014 NBA Draft at No. 34 overall is a nice blend of length (6-foot-8) and athleticsim that will fit into new head coach Derek Fisher’s system. Fisher, a former player under team president Phil Jackson, will likely install Jackson’s offense of choice, the Triangle, which makes Early’s selection a relative steal.

Early is a native of Middletown, New York who attended Pine Bush High School and Sullivan County Community College before starring at Wichita State, and said he cherishes being selected by his hometown team, and sees the chance to play in front of family and friends as a gift, not a curse.

“It’s a blessing to play for my city,” said Early, adding he’s coming into summer league and training camp a humbled rookie.

He also noted he’s aware his past and the path he took to get to the league is unique.

“I’m just another guy coming in with heck of a story to tell,” he said.

The athletic swingman led Wichita State to an undefeated regular season before falling to Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA tournment. And although his team came up short, his season-long performance and highlight-reel dunks against Kentucky put everyone on notice.

“I believe in my abilities and my approach to the game. I think I can play basketball,” said Early. “Me being a learner, being a willing listener and coachable and having a competitive nature allows me to play at a high level. Phil picked me for a reason. And the fact that he knew me and knows my game helps that [confidence], because he’s on top of everything. … It’s honestly a very special feeling.”

Jackson certainly felt as if Early was the right choice once the Knicks were on the clock. He stressed the Shockers held opponents to just 59.9 points per game, which was ninth in the nation.

“We’ve talked about the condition this roster must be in and the defense that we’re going to require,” Jackson said. “We want to he more aggresive defensively.”

Jackson also added that getting a ready-made player on the roster at the bargain price of his rookie payment slot was important.

“We have many [financial] handcuffs with our salary cap being what it is,” said Jackson. “So, we know we need to add [quality] parts wherever and however we can.”

Early said he’s coming into the summer league with no expectations, with “working hard” being his only prerequisite. If nothing else, Early added, he’s already exceeding expectations, considering the path the 23-year-old has taken.

“The divine is working repeatedly in people’s lives,” Early said. “I like that I’m already feeling like I’m dreaming when I’m actually living it right now. … I feel like I can do whatever I want — fly even.”

The Knicks won’t ask the rookie to fly, but he’ll definitely be asked to help lift the franchise under the new regime.

Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Earth Day New York food toolkits to help…

Hundreds of classrooms across New York City already have indoor container gardens that allow students to grow food right where they learn. But Earth Day…

Local

NYPD announces street closures for United Nations General…

The United Nations representatives are in town, and multiple city streets will be closed to traffic through Saturday, Sept. 26. The NYPD is urging those…

Local

Flood Wall Street protesters shut down lower Manhattan…

Riding the momentum of Sunday’s People’s Climate March, more than a thousand protesters filled Broadway in lower Manhattan on Monday, shutting down traffic. Flood Wall…

Local

Mayor pledges lower greenhouse gas emissions from New…

Just hours before the start of the People’s Climate March on Sunday, and two days ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit, Mayor Bill de…

Television

10 Facts you won’t learn about Frankie Grande…

Frankie Grande is the worst and/or the best. Whether or not you're a fan, you'll want to know these facts about the polarizing player from "Big Brother 16."

Movies

Antoine Fuqua can kill someone with just a…

It's amazing what you can get done with the right tools. In designing the climactic battle in "the Equalizer," in which Denzel Washington's retired special…

Movies

Guess Ben Kingsley's worst filmmaking experience

Here's a fun game: Sir Ben Kingsley has made a lot of films since "Gandhi" in 1982, but at least one of them was a…

Books

Does Lena Dunham have any secrets left?

Get a sneak peek at her new book to determine if it’s worth the read.

College

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close…

College football top 25 poll: Oregon, Alabama close in on FSU

NFL

Jay Cutler takes Marc Trestman's coaching to heart

While Jay Cutler turned to an autobiography on the man who would be his head coach, Trestman had personal experience with the player.

NFL

Jets vs. Bears: 3 things to watch

Jets fans likely chalked up Monday's matchup with the Bears as a loss when the NFL schedule came out. But given their team's play so…

NFL

Rashad Jennings carries Giants in first win this…

Rashad Jennings, who came to New York from Oakland last year, by way of Jacksonville, was highly coveted this offseason by general manager Jerry Reese.

Style

Sarah Doukas on social media, models and diversity

The maker of Kate Moss tells Metro how social media can drive the diversity change in the fashion industry.

Education

Here are this year's most creative college application…

The college application essay is one of the only times during the admissions process where a student can showcase his or her personality. While many…

Style

Nicola Formichetti on Diesel, the digital revolution and…

The artistic director of fashion label Diesel – and stylist for Lady Gaga – is creating human connection through social media.

Education

Your older siblings probably had a big impact…

As many high school students agonize over where to go to college, it turns out they turn to a very familiar source for advice and…