By Brian Lentz, NWCC Sports Information Director
A former Northwest men’s basketball standout is coming home, this time as an assistant coach.
Jamar McKnight was announced as the newest addition to Shane Oakley’s coaching staff on Thursday, marking a return to the Five Star City for the former Ranger and Clemson standout.
“This has always been home for me,” McKnight said. “Northwest helped me grow as a person and as an athlete. The foundation that I had here has made me into the person that I am today. There are great people here, so it means a lot to me to have the opportunity to come back here. I am blessed and thankful to have the opportunity to help move this program forward and make the Rangers even better.”
A native of Zachary, La., McKnight brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience to the Northwest, beginning with his two-year stint with the Rangers from 1998-2000. He has played two seasons for former coach Don “Bubba” Skelton, leading the team in scoring with 18.5 points per game during his sophomore season. McKnight also earned All-MACCC honors and remains third in the career record books for free throw percentage (.793).
Following Northwest, McKnight continued his athletic career at Clemson University from 2000-02, earning 24 starts during his senior season with the Tigers. He averaged 12.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as a senior, while also averaging 8.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game over the span of his two-year career.
McKnight then gained professional experience both domestically and overseas, beginning with a two-year stint with the Greenville Groove of the former National Basketball Development League (now known as the G-League). After being invited to the Boston Celtics’ camp, McKnight turned his attention to Europe and Asia, playing for teams in Austria, Hungary, Iran and Spain from 2004-06.
After a brief return to the United States with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBDL, McKnight headed back overseas in 2007 to continue his professional career in Portugal. He missed the 2008-09 season due to injury, but returned to the court in Instanbul, Turkey in 2010, before retiring to pursue a path in coaching.
McKnight began his coaching career in between international playing stints, heading up the Zachary All-Stars’ AAU program from 2007-13. In 2011, he began a stint as the assistant coach for the men’s basketball program at Baton Rouge Community College, a role he served in until 2014. While at BRCC, he noted a 5-1 record during a brief period as the interim head coach and helped lead the Bears to their first conference title during his time as an assistant, helping the program to the NJCAA National Tournament in Hutchinson, Kan.
From 2014-17, McKnight returned to his alma mater, Zachary High School, serving as an assistant coach for the varsity and junior varsity basketball programs. While at Zachary, he helped the Broncos to the LHSAA Class 5A Semifinals and guided the boys’ program to the playoffs in 2015. Additionally, McKnight also served as an assistant coach on the school’s football staff.
In 2018, McKnight was named the head boys’ basketball coach at Southern University A&M Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, a role he served in until this year. While there, he helped Southern Lab to the LHSAA quarterfinals and was named the District 1-6A Coach of the Year. During the 2020-21 season, I have helped the program to a No. 1 ranking in the state and a top seed in Class 1A. During that season, his team knocked off traditional powerhouse programs such as Catholic, University, Walker, Jehovah-Jireh and Crescent City.
“He considers Northwest home and that is a huge benefit to us,” head coach Shane Oakley said. “He knows how we do things here and he is aware of how great our program has been. He has played at the highest levels of basketball and has coached at the community college level, so he brings a wealth of knowledge and he is going to be a great asset for us in recruiting. Most of all, he is a terrific person and someone that our student-athletes can emulate, both on and off the court.”
McKnight holds multiple college degrees, including an Associate of Arts from Northwest and a pair of bachelor’s degrees from Clemson (Speech and Communications) and Southern University A&M College (Sociology). In 2017, he has also earned his Masters of Arts in Social Sciences from Southern University, with a concentration on sociology and a thesis on “The Impact of Sports on Athletes and Their Families in Our Society”.