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Former Wildcat weathers college life

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Derek Knutty has a slight problem at Saint Michael’s College in Burlington, Vt. The 2009 Whitney High School graduate could be having the time of his life if the weather would just cooperate. Knutty has endured shivering in the snow of winter and sweating in the spring humidity. Fortunately for Knutty, the only season that matters is the one he spends in the gym with a basketball. The 6-foot-7, 205-pound sophomore never imagined he would be attending a college so far from home. He was planning to play at Sierra College until Saint Michael’s offered him a scholarship. Knutty got a break from the chilly East Coast weather last month when he came home for Christmas. A snowstorm last December prevented him from traveling to Rocklin to be with his family Just before he left Saint Michael’s, a foot of snow left Burlington covered in a white blanket. “That’s not good at all,” he said. “It’s definitely beautiful here, but I’d much rather be in California.” A scholarship offer was one Knutty could not refuse even though he had to leave behind his family and friends. He became the first Californian to play basketball at Saint Michael’s since 2005. Basketball provided an assist for Knutty in overcoming his homesickness. Making friends was difficult until he became acquainted with his teammates. The Purple Knights showed him the ropes. “The first semester was hard. I was around a bunch of people I didn’t know,” he recalled. “When I got to know a lot of the upperclassmen on the team, that pushed me into the whole college thing.” No introductions were necessary once Knutty stepped on the court. He took care of that on his own. Knutty played in 23 of the Purple Knights’ 26 games last season, including 10 starts. He averaged 4.6 points a game and ranked third on the team in blocks (13) and sixth in rebounds (76). The jump from Whitney to Saint Michael’s was not as easy as his statistics might suggest. Knutty had grown accustomed to looking down at most every player during his days with the Wildcats. That is not the case with the Purple Knights and the teams they face in the Northeast-10 Conference. Once the season ended, Knutty realized he needed to add bulk to go along with his height. When he returned to the court in the fall, Knutty weighed 215. A few of those pounds were rented. “They ran 10 pounds off of me,” he said. “I worked so hard to gain weight and then lost it right away.” Knutty has gained playing time as a sophomore. He has gone from averaging 13 minutes as a freshman to nearly 23 this season. He has also boosted his scoring average to 7.6 points a game. Another change for Knutty this season has been his address. One year in the dormitory was enough, but so he applied for an eight-bedroom suite. As a sophomore, however, he was ineligible. There happened to be a vacant room in a suite for international students, so Knutty was allowed to take it. Five of his roommates are from Japan, China, Peru and South Korea. Knutty can still eat in the dining hall, but the international students do not have a meal plan. They have to cook for themselves and will occasionally invite Knutty to taste their creations. “Some of the stuff they make is really good,” he said. “I don’t know what it is. There’s a language barrier.”