Marquette’s Shaka Smart thinks Knicks will be ‘real fit’ for Tyler Kolek

After three years with Tyler Kolek, Shaka Smart is bullish on his future.

He’s certain.

The Knicks got a keeper in their second-round pick out of Marquette, someone who will mesh well with the culture that has been established by coach Tom Thibodeau, Jalen Brunson and Co.

Kolek was considered a potential first-round pick after leading the nation in assists.

He ended up falling out of the opening round, and had to wait a day to hear his name called.

The Knicks drafted Tyler Kolek in the second round of the 2024 NBA Draft. USA TODAY NETWORK
Shaka Smart coached Tyler Kolek at Marquette. Getty Images

But the Knicks scooped him up with the 34th overall pick in the draft, and showed they valued him, signing him to a four-year, $9.06 million contract.

Clearly, they believe in the polished 6-foot-1 point guard.

“Tom Thibodeau is known as the toughest, grittiest, most hard-nosed coach in the NBA, and Tyler Kolek is tough, he’s gritty, he’s competitive, he doesn’t back down from any challenge,” the Marquette coach said on Monday. “So I think that’ll be a real fit for him.”

Kolek was an unheralded recruit coming out of St. George’s School in Newport, R.I.

He was unranked.

As a freshman at George Mason of the Atlantic 10, he put up modest numbers — 10.8 points, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals — before transferring to Marquette following the 2020-21 season.

There, he developed into one of the premier point guards in the country, improving each season under Smart.

This past year, he led the Golden Eagles to their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2013, and was No. 1 in the nation in assists at 7.7 per game.

He was the Big East Player of the Year as a junior and a two-time consensus All-American.

He became a strong outside shooter, hitting 38.8 percent this year on 3.9 attempts while averaging a career-best 15.3 points.

Now, he’s making a considerable jump to the professional ranks.

First up is the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, where Kolek can begin to show his new team what he can do and potentially prove to them he can be an immediate contributor.

“His passing is as good as I’ve seen, and I think it will really, really translate. Now you have to have the ball in your hands, and he’s not going to have the ball in his hands as much as he did here,” Smart said. “But I actually think the part of his game that may surprise some people up there, that I’ve always felt was underrated, is his shooting. Because now you’re playing with Brunson, you’re playing with [Mikal] Bridges, guys that command a lot of attention. Can you make that open shot when your [defender] helps? And I think he’ll be able to do that at a high level.”

Tyler Kolek led the nation in assists last season at Marquette. AP

The Knicks are flush with guys who were strong college players and were overlooked in the draft.

Brunson, Josh Hart and Miles McBride are a few good examples, players Kolek can learn from and model his progression after.

They know what it takes to make it in the league.

“If you look at the personnel on the Knicks, Tyler has to go in and earn everything he gets,” Smart said. “I think he will appreciate those guys [around him] and those guys will appreciate him.”

Tyler Kolek was considered a potential first-round pick before falling to the second round. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Second-round pick Ariel Hukporti agreed to a two-way contract, the Knicks announced Monday night.

The 6-foot-11 big man from Germany was drafted 58th overall by the Mavericks and traded to the Knicks on draft night.

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