CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Alabama transfer Justin Knox plopped down in a chair, then found himself surrounded by about a dozen reporters on North Carolina's practice court.
Now a member of the Tar Heels men's basketball program, it was more attention than he was used to at a football school like Alabama.
"I've never had anything like that before," Knox said Thursday during UNC's media day. "Most of the time, it was like one or two (reporters), so I'm kind of overwhelmed right now."
The Tar Heels hope that's a temporary state coming off their miserable 17-loss season.
They need immediate help for a front line depleted by the unexpected transfers of twins David and Travis Wear. The 6-foot-9, 240-pound Knox, transferring in as a graduate student, only averaged about six points per game in his best season with the Crimson Tide.
Knox is the first scholarship player to transfer into the program since Makhtar Ndiaye left Michigan to play for Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge from 1996-98.
"I guess everything happens for a reason," Knox said. "With the Wear twins and that leaving a hole in the frontcourt, there came an opportunity for me and I'm pretty grateful it happened."
The loss of the Wears to UCLA caught coach Roy Williams off guard and came too late for the Tar Heels to find a last-minute recruit.
That left North Carolina with only 7-footer Tyler Zeller and 6-10 forward John Henson up front. But around that same time, Knox was considering where to go next after deciding to transfer after three seasons at Alabama.
It was a marriage of good timing and good fortune, with Knox looking for a program that could help him pursue his goal of one day playing professionally and the Tar Heels getting a player who had the experience to play immediately. Knox went through summer school at Alabama to complete his course work for his undergraduate degree, which allowed him to transfer as a graduate student without the typical NCAA requirement of sitting out a year when transferring between Division I programs.
Henson said he didn't know anything about Knox when he first decided to transfer, even searching in vain on YouTube for clips of Knox's game.
"We'd never seen him play," Henson said. "He came in and he fit in just fine with us. ... He's got a nice back-to-the-basket game, which kind of surprised me. I think he's going to be in there in the thick of things just like me, so it's going to be fun."
Knox enrolled in August and is in the school's sports administration program, but he wasn't immediately eligible to play with the Tar Heels during an exhibition tour of the Bahamas that month. With practice yet to start, Williams said he had only really seen Knox do some individual shooting since his arrival.
Then again, Williams hadn't seen much more than that — two games' worth of tape, in fact — before trying to lure Knox to Chapel Hill.
"There weren't a heck of a lot of choices," Williams said. "Guys like that don't go walking up and down the street in front of your door all the time. We identified six people and to us, he was by far the most attractive, the best, most able to do the work academically and the most experienced."
North Carolina's front line recently took another hit when Williams kicked senior swingman Will Graves off the team for breaking team rules. Williams said Graves would likely have had to play some at the 4 position due to the Tar Heels' lack of bodies up front and their depth on the perimeter, which includes heralded freshman Harrison Barnes and junior point guard Larry Drew II.
It all adds up to plenty of minutes — and opportunities — for Knox in his final college season.
"It's pretty exciting because I realize the great opportunity I have because of the North Carolina program, its traditions and the fact that most of our games are on TV, so it's going to be pretty much a prime-time event every time we step on the court," Knox said. "And also the fact that it's my last year, so I'm pretty much going to go all out."