Senior Spring: Chris Knight ’21 heads to Loyola Chicago to continue hoops career
In three seasons with the Big Green, Knight left a significant mark on Dartmouth's basketball program.
Forward Chris Knight '21 will play as a graduate student next year at Loyola Chicago University after recovering from his left Achilles injury.
When Chris Knight ’21 arrived as a 17-year-old freshman in Hanover, he did not think that he was physically or mentally ready for college basketball. But Knight quickly gained confidence and made an impact from the very start of his Dartmouth basketball career, ultimately becoming one of the program’s best players in recent memory. After his graduation from the College this spring, Knight will be taking his talents to Loyola University Chicago as a graduate transfer student.
“He had great size, great athleticism and just a ton of potential,” head coach David McLaughlin said. “He knew with how he played the game, it was only a matter of time before his skillset just exploded.”
After getting valuable experience during his freshman campaign, averaging 10.1 points per game, Knight quickly blossomed into the team’s best player. Leading the team in points, rebounds and blocks, Knight earned All-Ivy Second Team honors as a sophomore, the only member of the Big Green to earn All-Ivy honors. He continued his dominance in his junior year, again being named to the All-Ivy Second Team while also winning the team MVP award after leading the Big Green with 14.8 points per game on 55.4 percent shooting, along with 6.4 rebounds per game.
Teammate Aaryn Rai ’21 said he witnessed Knight’s development into a star player. Rai said that in addition to his work ethic, Knight didn’t let pressure affect his performance.
“I think he started just playing and enjoying himself,” Rai said. “He just enjoyed his time out there on the court, and let the chips fall where they did … From an outsider’s point of view, it just seemed like he was just working hard and enjoying his time, and then everything fell into place.”
Knight found success off the court as well, as a government major who has completed multiple finance internships during his Dartmouth career, according to Knight’s teammate Brandan Barry ’20.
“He’s really set himself up to be successful both on the court and off the court,” Barry said. “… It’s just a testament to all the hard work he’s put in to improve himself.”
After a great junior season, Knight tore his left Achilles tendon last August, which would have sidelined him for his senior year if the team’s season had been played as scheduled. Despite the injury and the canceled season, McLaughlin praised Knight’s leadership.
“He was at every team meeting, he was at every Zoom, he was an active participant, he was on our alumni calls [and] he showed leadership to the freshman when they were here in the fall,” McLaughlin said. “All of these [are] things that he didn’t have to do, but it showed his commitment to Dartmouth, commitment to the program and his maturation as a leader.”
Even though the recovery process has been difficult, Knight said that he has been able to learn valuable lessons from it.
“It was a tough process, especially because it was during COVID and quarantine,” Knight said. “I felt really alone. I actually didn’t think I was going to be able to play basketball again. I was really down for a little bit … [But] it definitely changed my perspective to not take certain things for granted, and it definitely helped my work ethic.”
During his recovery, Knight made the decision to head to Loyola Chicago. Not only did Loyola offer significant playing time, but Knight felt that the program matched his preferred playing style and has demonstrated that they can win big games. He said he is looking forward to a great opportunity to accomplish some of his dreams next year.
The Ramblers certainly have the pedigree Knight was looking for. In 2018, the school stunned the sports world, making a memorable Final Four run as an 11 seed. This year, in their return to the NCAA Tournament, they upset No. 1 seed University of Illinois in the Round of 32.
Knight said he was both happy and sad watching the Ramblers succeed this year, as it was great to see them play so well but tough not to be part of the run. However, Knight added that he plans to use the team’s success as inspiration for next year.
“It definitely gives me something to motivate me and drive for,” Knight said. “The fact that they’ve been able to make [March Madness] twice in the past four years and do so well ... it shows that if I do the right thing, and if everyone is on the same page, we can definitely do it again.”
Although Loyola Chicago’s head coach Porter Moser recently announced that he will assume that role at the University of Oklahoma, Knight said he was happy to hear that assistant coach Drew Valentine will replace him. Valentine was the coach who recruited him, Knight said, so the two already have a strong relationship.
Knight will be tough to replace for the Big Green, but he leaves behind a lasting legacy. Despite playing only three seasons at Dartmouth, Knight ranks sixth in blocks in Dartmouth history and 18th in scoring, and he is one of just three Big Green players in the past decade to make the All-Ivy Second Team in consecutive seasons.
Rai said that he always enjoyed when Knight would take over games, single-handedly bringing the Big Green back.
“[There were] just times, especially late in the Ivy season, in the second half [where he’d] just take the ball and end up going on a little 5-0, 7-0, 9-0 run by himself,” Rai said. “Those were always some great experiences on the court, just watching him get buckets and dominate.”
Barry said he appreciated Knight’s work ethic and leadership, and thinks those attributes will help Knight find success at Loyola.
“First and foremost, he’s a super hard worker. He’s going to go in there and bring that,” Barry said. “I think two is the leadership that he’s really developed. Loyola is obviously a really good program, and at the end of the day, he’s just a great teammate. They’ll definitely appreciate that over there.”