New Knicks combo guard Immanuel Quickley was projected as a second-round pick in most mock drafts after measuring at just 6-foot-2 at the virtual draft combine. He also had a rough go of it early at Kentucky and didn’t even start to begin his sophomore year.
The Knicks ignored it all and selected him at No. 25 in Wednesday’s NBA Draft. The Post has learned former Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne, now a Knicks assistant, pushed strongly for the move, feeling Quickley was undervalued. He ended his sophomore season as SEC Player of the Year, beating out No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards of Georgia.
“I feel like the ‘they’ can be anybody,” Quickley said on “MSG A.M.,” the network’s new morning show. “You’re trying to not only prove people wrong, but prove yourself right. 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. And I took it to my workouts and made a list of goals and things like that. That’s stuff that I’ll take with me even to the next level as far as just trying to prove other people wrong, trying to prove myself right and to just continue to keep working hard.”
Asked what Knicks fans can expect, Quickley said, “I’m somebody who works hard and is driven. And someone that I feel is confident and is going to work hard every single day to achieve his goals and the team goals.”
The Knicks have four Kentucky players on the roster with Quickley and free-agent center Nerlens Noel added to Julius Randle and Kevin Knox. The “Orange and Bluegrass” have Payne in place to develop them all.
“At Kentucky, he was someone who would scream at you on the court or in practice,” said Quickley, who was ranked the No. 58 prospect last spring. “But he would be that first one with you in the gym that same night or early morning. He was someone that really sacrificed not only on the floor, but off the floor, too. As far as me getting to the Knicks, he is someone that is going to push me. I know he’s going to push me to be the best I can be and take what I want. And I’m just glad to have him.”
On a Zoom call Monday, Kentucky coach John Calipari said Quickley’s college career made it tough for scouts to judge him properly.
“He’s one of the great kids I’ve coached. I’m into analytics, but there are certain things analytics can’t evaluate,” Calipari said of the rough competition at Kentucky. “How do you evaluate that? How do you evaluate a man at the start of his sophomore career who was good enough to start, but I didn’t want three point guards in at one time. He trusted the process. He trusted me. By the end of the year he’s Player of the Year in the league going away.”
Quickley averaged 16 points and shot 42.8 percent from 3. Calipari said Quickley had low-scoring games in which he helped the team win because of his defense and unselfishness.
“This guy is going to stretch the court. The NBA has changed. It’s about stretching the court and lane touches and the threat of hitting 3s,” Calipari said. “If you can’t hit a 3, you’re not going to be guarded in that league anymore. The other thing is, he’s played dribble-drive downhill with the court spaced. it’s going to be spaced more now because of how the NBA plays it. He’s mentally ready and on a mission.”