Dotson Delivers When Given A Chance

After the Knicks used a second-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft on Damyean Dotson, I called his college coach Kelvin Sampson. One quote from the University of Houston coach kept recycling in my thoughts.

“Before the season is over, Damyean is going to surprise you,’’ Sampson said. “You’ll see early on that he is an excellent shooter. But he’s a very good rebounder for his size. And he’s going to listen to the coaches and veterans, and work hard every day and if he gets a chance. He’s going to surprise you.”

It took until the 79th game of the season but Dotson did not surprise us when he got his chance. He shocked us.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound shooting guard poured in 30 points in 36 minutes on 12-of-21 shooting, including 4-of-10 on 3s. He also pulled down 11 rebounds as the Knicks used a four-guard lineup to blow out the Miami Heat, 122-98 on Friday.

“This means a lot going into the offseason,’’ Dotson told reporters. “It shows my continuous work and persistence, and staying with it and believing. It gives me an up, makes me excited what’s coming further.’’

Dotson followed up that breakout performance on Saturday night. He scored 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field, including 1-of-2 on 3s with three rebounds, two assists and three steals in 30 minutes in a 115-102 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

[Watch Knicks-Cavaliers Monday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

When one considers that Dotson played the first 13 games of the season in the G-League, and only played in 41 games going into the Miami win, it’s a testament to the rookie’s professionalism that he was ready when he got his chance.

“Most importantly, stay ready,’’ Dotson acknowledged.

“Always be professional. Stay in shape. Get your extra work in as a rookie,” said Dotson. “That’s the most important, be prepared and stay ready.”

Dotson clearly did that. The Knicks knew what they were getting in Dotson – a terrific three-point shooter who needed to work on his lateral quickness and defense.

What’s also clear from this small sample set is that Dotson has been working on his shortcomings. Dotson held Miami’s Wayne Ellington to 10 points on 3-of-9 shooting.

“We see it,’’ said Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek. “The strength he has. He’s 6-5 or so, but he’s got the strength. It’s a challenge. He’s giving up weight but he’ll fight.

“He can fight through screens. He’s not afraid to put his body in on somebody, wrestle and bang that way. When a guy’s not fearful of getting beat up, they can battle.”

And as Sampson said, Dotson can battle on the boards. He averaged 6.9 rebounds as a senior to go along with 17.4 points.

But the NBA is a brave new world for most collegians. Dotson had to wait, watch, learn, get stronger, improve his defense and learn to attack the basket.

His 30-point, 11-rebound performance put Dotson in some elite company. He’s the first Knicks rookie to post those numbers since a guy by the name of Patrick Ewing did so in his rookie year of 1985-86.

We’re not trying to make Dotson out to be a savior. Late-season basketball often produces anomalies. Some teams are resting players. Others are jockeying for draft position. Veterans and star players are being rested.

Dotson knows he can’t control any of that. What he could control was to keep working and seize the moment if it came. He did in these last two games. The Knicks (28-52) close out the season with a home-and-home series against the Cleveland Cavaliers (49-31).

The Knicks host the Cavs Monday night (7 PM, MSG & MSG GO) and Dotson should continue to see good minutes. He might, as crazy as this would have seemed just a week ago, get a chance to guard a guy named LeBron.

That’s probably too much for Dotson to consider. Right now he’s trying to process the success he’s had in the last two games.

“It’s amazing,’’ Dotson said. “Just trying to stay the course, keep believing, keep working hard.

“Eventually something good will happen. It’s playing the right way, believing in myself, believing in the development, coming from the G-League, coming from back and forth, playing.”

Dotson isn’t the only Knicks player to have kept working and staying positive despite starting the season in the G-League. Trey Burke is People’s Example A – having gone from G-League to Knicks starting point guard.

[Robbins: Burke Seizing Second Chance]

But Burke had NBA experience. Dotson was starting at the bottom.

“We had a lot of guys at that position,’’ Hornacek told reporters. “That makes it tough. He’s done a good job of bouncing back and forth from the G league. He gets good reps there and that’s what we use that for.

“He practices every day with the guys and that’s going to make him a better player. I think that it has. He feels confident when he gets out there. Prior to this, there were maybe smaller stints. He was pressing too much, [thinking], ‘I got to make shots,’ and usually it doesn’t work out well.”

This time it’s worked out. A certain coach in Houston isn’t surprised.

[Watch Knicks-Cavaliers Monday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]