Immanuel Quickley is used to having doubters. That part of the game is nothing new to him. The former Kentucky basketball guard recognizes that there are always going to be people that think you aren’t good enough. It’s what adds fuel to his fire.
"“I feel like a lot of people after my freshman year at Kentucky gave up on me and said – I should transfer, I should leave, I’m not going to be good enough. I just screenshotted everything I saw that said I wasn’t going to be good enough.”"
He proved in his second year at Kentucky that he belonged and was more than good enough. His shooting improved, his confidence grew and his points per game increased from 5.2 to 16.1. He closed the season with 20 straight games scoring in double figures and became just the fifth player of the John Calipari era to win SEC Player of the Year.
However, even after his breakout sophomore campaign, there were many that thought he should return for a third season. His draft projections weren’t great.
The folks at The Ringer had Quickley listed at 39th in their mock draft. NBADraft.net went even lower, projecting he would stay on the board until the 42nd pick. CBS Sports placed him 59th, nearly going undrafted. None had him in the first round.
The New York Knicks saw something the pundits didn’t. It may have also helped that they had some insider information from the new assistant coach and former John Calipari assistant, Kenny Payne. After a series of draft-night trades, the Knicks secured the 25th pick in the first round and the rights to Quickley.
On draft night, he told his former coach, “they said I couldn’t do it.” “This (is) just the beginning though, you’re about to see something great.”
Others weren’t quite sure. Just as they had doubted him in the mock drafts, they were not confident in the Knicks making him a first-round selection.
As media outlets weighed in with their first-round grades, they all had Quickley near the bottom. Of all those giving their opinion, there weren’t any which gave the pick better than a C.
It was head down for Quickley. I’m sure he took screenshots of those draft grades, too.
Quickley has seen action in 16 games thus far and is proving every one of those doubters wrong yet again. He’s a large part of why the Knicks are sitting at 9-11 (8th in the Eastern Conference.) Might I remind you that it took them 33 games to win 9 last season and 30 the year prior.
It’s not just that he’s averaging 11.6 points per game, good for fifth on the team, it’s how he’s getting it done while playing limited minutes. Quickley currently ranks 45th in the league in scoring per 36 minutes, higher than any other rookie. His totals have him in the top 5 in rookie scoring, and top 7 in assists.
After scoring 25 points on Friday, Quickley has led the Knicks in scoring two of the last three games, coming off the bench in both and playing a total of 43 minutes.
When he put up 31 points against the Trailblazers earlier this week, he became just the second rookie to eclipse the 30 point mark this season. The other being Tyrese Maxey, his former Kentucky teammate who scored 39 earlier this month.
The rapid rise and consistent production has the New York media asking why he’s yet to crack the starting lineup over Elfrid Payton. When asked about this, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau offered the following response.
"“We like the group that he’s with right now,” “And we think it functions best that way. And so you want to have everybody play to their strengths and also you want to cover up people’s weaknesses. So right now we feel the best opportunity for us to win is doing the things we’re doing.”"
Regardless of whether he’s starting or not, that’s not something that will weigh on Immanuel Quickley. The doubters sure haven’t either, and they are becoming fewer and fewer by the day.