- National Teams
Esteemed Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski celebrated a fifth National Championship with Duke this week and one of his former protégés is targeting success of his own in the BBL.
Taylor King was a highly-rated prospect out of high school, but a frustrating college career put NBA plans on hold. Four years into his pro career, stints all over the world have led King to the UK with Cheshire Phoenix.
To put King’s potential and talent into context, he featured in the 2007 McDonald’s All-American game, where his team-mates included the likes of James Harden, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, all of whom have gone on to become NBA All-Stars no less. The year before, he averaged 12 points per game to help USA claim gold at the 2006 FIBA Americas Under-18 Championship.
King made the headlines in the States after committing to UCLA at the age of 15, before eventually deciding to head to Duke. A steady start was made before playing time became scarce.
The California native finished the season with 186 points including a career best of 27 points, although he was unable to dislodge fellow freshman Kyle Singler – now at Oklahoma City Thunder – from the starting line-up and decided to transfer to Villanova.
“Playing for K was a great experience,” King said of his time at Duke. “I got to say I played for a future hall-of-famer and a legend.
“Unfortunately for me and him, we didn’t see eye to eye on some things and I was young and naive back then.
“If I would have done it over again, I probably wouldn’t have chose Duke, but the past is the past and I’m happy where I’m at now.”
After sitting out the 2008-09 season following his transfer, King averaged 7.4 points in 32 games as a sophomore before the Wildcats bowed out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Off-court issues led to another change, and King eventually rounded off a troubled college career with a year at Concordia University in the NAIA.
Since starting his pro career, King has played in Canada, Taiwan, Iran, Mexico and China, where he was at when Cheshire’s Head Coach John Coffino came calling.
The appointment of the former NBA D-League Head Coach has led to the club making a number of high-profile signings throughout the season with King a prime example. And the 6’8″ forward admits that the chance to link up with Coffino was enough to lure him to the North-West of England.
“Coach Coffino is the reason I took this job to play here,” he admitted. “I have known him for a while and always wanted the chance to play for him. Coach is great; the best players-coach I have ever played for.
“He does a great job of getting us up for each and every game, and he has done a great job of keeping us together throughout the season.”
King joined the club in October and has gone on to rack up 606 points in 31 league games to lead the BBL in scoring averages with 19.5 per game. The 26-year-old is also averaging 9.3 rebounds per game, helped by a total of 16 double-doubles including six in his last six outings.
In all but one league game, King has scored in double digits with a season-high of 36 points coming against Sheffield Sharks in January, which included 6-10 shooting from beyond the arc.
“I believe I have been playing fairly well,” he said. “I’ve been shooting the ball pretty well and contributing as much as I can for the team, but still trying to get better and improve my game as the season goes on.
“I just go out there and do what I can to help the team win,” he added.” “If putting up those numbers help then I will continue to do so for the rest of the season. I try to add my experience from playing at the highest level and against the best competition to the court and the team.”
Team-mate and compatriot, Demond Watt has been another consistently strong performer for the Nix this season; claiming the BBL Player of the Month award on four occasions. And King was full of praise for his team-mate, who leads the league in scoring (621 points) and is second in rebounds (373).
“Demond is a great player: athletic, strong, and crafty around the basket,” he said. “Anytime you can have a player like Demond on your team, it helps for sure. He is a double-double guy that is huge every time we play. I’m happy for his success he’s had this season.”
After starting the season 3-5, changes were made to improve their fortunes and Cheshire won 15 of their next 16 league games to help them secure a place in the top four.
The changes have been rung throughout the season and with Mike DiNunno heading back to America (via MVP’s BBL Insider) he becomes the 10th player to depart for varying reasons this season. 19 players have been used in total, and King admits the high turnover of players has been challenging to deal with.
“It’s definitely not the easiest thing to have to adjust to new additions to the team ever so often because it’s difficult to get in a flow with a certain roster then a week or two later you have a new player to teach the offence too and get used to playing with.
“It’s still been a pretty solid year” he added. “We have done a good job of keeping focus and adjusting to new team-mates being brought in.
“As of right now, we are just trying to end the regular season on a high note and build momentum for the playoffs.”
As things stand, Cheshire have a 23-10 record with just three games left and look set to finish fourth behind Newcastle, Leicester and Worcester. And King believes that his side can claim silverware at the 02 Arena next month if they ‘play together as a team’ and focus on the defensive end.
This has been King’s first experience of playing in Europe as a pro and believes it can further his career, whilst having matured since his time at college.
“It is definitely a stepping stone for me to move to a more competitive league and to progress as a player,” he admitted.
“Maturing as a player has definitely helped me gain a better perspective of the game and what I have to do to play at a high high level.”
King has certainly been one of the shining lights of the BBL season, and he isn’t finished just yet.
Image credit: Ben Taylor Photography