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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

Knight a consistent force

Entering the Minnesota women’s basketball team as a freshman, senior forward Leslie Knight said 2004-05 captain Janel McCarville was a big influence on her college success.

Now Knight is the captain, and the only senior with an on-court role, carrying the burden of passing along the traditions of the program.

“It’s very important for me to be an example not only on the court, but off the court as well,” she said of the position. “I want to be someone my teammates can look to for a play or for support.”

Knight’s strong on-court presence this season has been an improvement from seasons past, as early in the year, the Gophers were able to go to Knight to get an important basket at home.

Coach Pam Borton said even more of this is expected from Knight this season.

“What we need from Leslie is her consistency and doing what she does for us every night,” she said. “We’ve seen it early on this season, she’s hit shots that seniors are supposed to hit, and that’s what we need her to do.”

But Knight didn’t start out in that role. As a freshman, Knight watched from the bench, gaining valuable experience watching one of the best forwards in Minnesota history in McCarville finish off her senior season.

As a sophomore, Knight was bumped to the guard position, a transition she said was rather awkward for her at first.

“I had never played guard before, so I just tried to watch the other guards and see how they played the game,” Knight said. “But it was tough because I had never been put in that position before.”

Knight said her shot and her ball handling skills improved vastly over that one season, but it was seemingly for naught, as Knight returned to the post position for her sophomore season.

It was Knight’s junior season when she began to finally see extensive playing time, as she started all 33 games, averaging 8.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Knight has been steadily improving this season, which may be a testament to her work ethic in practice.

“Leslie has always been a leader by example,” freshman forward Tanisha Smith said. “She always shows us through her actions that it’s important to work hard in practice, so she’s definitely a good person to follow.”

Smith and Knight bonded during Smith’s redshirt season, as Smith was Knight’s “little buddy.”

“She was an awesome buddy for me,” Smith said. “She was encouraging and taught me that it’s OK to make mistakes, because that’s how you bounce back. She’s always teaching me to have a positive attitude about everything and to expect a positive outcome.”

Knight also said she found the arrangement a pleasant one, saying she has always enjoyed having others around. In fact, Knight said that if her time hadn’t been tied down by basketball, she probably would have joined a sorority.

“This sounds kind of cheesy, but my mom was in a sorority in college, and I think I would definitely be part of one if I weren’t in basketball,” she said. “I love having people around all the time, and I think a sorority would be more like living in the dorms, where people would stop by whenever.”

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