The two best guards the Toronto Raptors can think about drafting on June 23 were in the same gym Tuesday, but going different directions.
Kemba Walker was on his way out, just finishing up with some interviews, when in walked Brandon Knight, his workout just getting started.
Both were at the Air Canada Centre to parade for the Raptors, but in a strange wrinkle of the draft process, they weren't there to work out against each other, despite competing for the same job.
Knight, 19, is rated the second-best point guard in the NBA draft after leading the University of Kentucky to the Final Four, where it lost in the semi-final game to the eventual U.S. college men's champion, the University of Connecticut, led by Walker.
Walker, 21, is rated third among point guards.
The Raptors, coming off a dismal 22-60 season, aren't locked into taking a point guard with the No. 5 selection they hold in the 2011 draft, but merely want to take the best player they can to reverse their course.
"At this stage, we want to accumulate the best assets we can," Raptors president Bryan Colangelo said.
Is Knight better than Walker or vice versa?
Tuesday's workout might have shed some light on that had the two gone head-to-head - a challenge each player seemed comfortable with - but it wasn't to be. The draft process is agent-driven, with the emphasis on preserving reputations for top prospects rather than making them.
Knight was covering his bases by working out for Toronto, given he's expected to be gone by the time the Raptors are picking.
"You never know what might happen," said Knight, a 6-foot-3 slasher who started all 38 games for the Wildcats as a freshman, and averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists. "So I just wanted to come here in case I did fall to that position and make sure Toronto is comfortable with picking me and make sure I worked out for them and I didn't leave any doubts in their mind. That's why I came."
The Raptors got to see him shoot and handle the ball, but it was a workout light on contact or competition -likely a precondition of him agreeing to come in the first place, though team officials didn't want to say so.
With so much at stake and a spot near the top of the NBA draft seemingly secure, he's willing to follow the advice of his agent, Arn Tellem, and do enough to impress but not put himself in situations where his standing could be at risk.
"That's why you hire agents," Knight said. "You listen to what the agent tells you and trust them and see what he says to do. I'm not scared to work out against anybody, I'm a competitor … but it's not always about being a competitor, sometimes it's about being strategic."
Which is likely how Walker and Knight ended up in the same gym on the same day, but not in the same group.
Walker's task in advance of the draft is to convince teams his shoot-first ways can be curbed and he can run a team as a more traditional point guard. To that end, he did well in the eyes of the Raptors staff.
"Everyone knows he's good scorer from his college career," senior director of player personnel Jim Kelly said. "But most impressive today was his passing ability."
How his skills compare directly to Knight's will remain a mystery however. Walker says he, too, would have like the chance to see how he measures up, but accepts it's unlikely to happen.
"It's something you have get used to; it's a different world now," said the UConn junior who averaged 23.7 points a game for the Huskies. "But it's not something I have any control over."
He can take comfort perhaps in that in two games against Knight and the Wildcats last season, UConn won both and Knight shot just nine of 38.
"Whoever it is, I'm going to go hard," Walker said. "It's not about who the person is, you have to go after them whoever it is."
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