Watch V.J. King play for just a few minutes and you’ll see that he’s not your standard high school sophomore.
Speak to him for a few seconds and you’ll come to the same conclusion.
Swarmed by reporters following his Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary squad’s 89-78 win over Normal (Ill.) University in Sunday’s Good Samaritan Flyin' to the Hoop Invitational, King dodged questions about his ongoing recruitment with the same ease that he recorded 30 points and eight rebounds against the Pioneers with.
Who all’s offered the 2016 five-star small forward? He claims that he’s not even sure.
Which big time coaches were talking to his dad at this weekend’s showcase? You’ll have to check with him.
Who were his favorite college programs growing up? He didn’t have any.
But while King’s kevlar-like deflections gave no insight into where he’ll be starting his college career in more than two years from now, it didn’t stop those in attendance at Kettering, Ohio's Trent Arena from pondering where the next great for the green and gold will wind up. Unlike V.J., St. Vincent-St. Mary's last king, LeBron James, didn’t have to make a college decision, as the NBA’s lack of an age limit in 2003 left him open to take his talents straight to the professional ranks.
At 6-5, 175 pounds and still growing, King will likely join his mentor, James, in the NBA one day, but he’ll first have to spend at least a season playing in college. Still in the middle of his sophomore season, the North Carolina native and current resident of the Rubber City has already been offered by Arizona, Iowa, Wisconsin, UNC Charlotte and the hometown favorite, Ohio State.
Most of college basketball’s other big time programs have also expressed interest in King and it’s only a matter of time before his offer list expands in the same manner that his game has. But while Fighting Irish head coach Dru Joyce has encouraged King to delay his decision and let his recruitment play out, it’s no secret that his current star player is one of the Buckeyes’ tent pole targets in the coming years.
And just how important is it that Thad Matta and his staff land the nation’s ninth-ranked player in the 2016 class?
“When Thad Matta first came in Ohio, he called me,” Joyce said. “And I said, ‘Thad, if you want to be successful, you have to keep the best players in Ohio in Ohio.’ I’ll leave it at that.”
The LeBron comparisons are inevitable for King, although not just because they’ll one day share an alma mater. With a lengthy frame, smooth game and the ability to score inside and out, King certainly looked the part of one of the nation’s top players as St. Vincent-St. Mary out-dueled Ohio State 2014 commit Keita Bates-Diop’s University team.
Bates-Diop -- who scored 31 points himself -- even joked that he attempted to recruit King to be a future teammate during their matchup, but if King is anything on the court like he is with the media, it likely came to no avail. Asked the influence that James -- a noted Ohio State fan -- could have on his recruitment, King stated that the majority of their conversations concern the legacies that they’re leaving for the Fighting Irish.
“I haven’t really talked to him about colleges. He talks to me about my high school career,” he said of his relationship with James. “He just told me he’s gone and to start a new chapter at the school. Just play my game and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
For Joyce, the recruitment questions and James comparisons are equally as inevitable.
A three-time winner of the Ohio Mr. Basketball award (2001-2003), it was under Joyce’s tutelage that James first nationally showcased the talent that would transform him into a four-time NBA MVP, nine-time All-Star, two-time gold medal winner, two-time NBA champion and counting. More times than he can already remember, Joyce has been asked to measure his current star against his former one, but the 12th-year St. Vincent-St. Mary head coach repeatedly refuses to take the bait.
“I told V.J. from the first day he walked in the building at St. Vincent-St. Mary when I first met him, ‘I want you to grow to be the best V.J. King you can be.’ The comparisons, I’ll leave that for everyone else,” Joyce said. “He’s young. He’s a great player. He’s very skilled. You all can see all that. He’s still got two years. He’s a sophomore. He’s still got a lot of time to develop.”
But even if his high school career isn’t halfway over yet, that won’t stop college fans -- particularly the ones in Columbus -- from keeping an eye on the latest kid from Akron, Ohio.
“There’s pressure because of who I am and obviously you all know who went to this school before me,” King said. “There’s definitely pressure but I try not to focus on that and I just try to work on my game and do what I can to win.”
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