By John Matisz/London Community News
Taylor King has fond memories of his high school basketball days.
The current London Lightning forward grew up in Huntington Beach, Cali., and attended Mater Dei High School. In four seasons, King became the fifth player from the Golden State to reach the 3,000-point milestone in their high school career. In his senior year he was named California’s Mr. Basketball.
“Shooting was my bread and butter,” King said plainly at London’s Central YMCA Monday afternoon (Dec. 5) following a team workout.
His long-range stroke still is, except the hyperbole and records have stopped.
In 11 games this season with the 9-2 Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL), the 6-foot-8, 225-pound small forward is averaging 9.1 points per game while shooting 42.5 per cent. However, since London’s third game of their inaugural season, a Nov. 6 game versus the Saint John Mill Rats, the sharp shooter has been limited by coach Michael Ray Richardson.
“Shooting is my job and I have to be way more consistent,” said King, who has taken nine shots or more just once after the Mill Rats win.
The 23-year-old is fresh off of a rugged three-year run in the collegiate ranks. It was a period filled with uncertainty. After being successfully recruited in 2007 by Duke University and legendary bench boss Mike “Coach K” Kryzewski, King spent only a single year in the storied program before transferring to Villanova University.
With the Duke Blue Devils, he averaged 5.5 points per game off the bench, including six double-digit scoring games. King was a difference maker despite playing minimal minutes, a combination which prompted change.
“Coming in as a McDonald’s All-American,” said the 2006 Under-18 USA Junior National Team member, “I wanted to find the quickest way to the National Basketball Association and I didn’t see myself playing a lot after my freshman year.”
The move to Philadelphia’s Villanova came at a price. King missed a prime year of basketball at the age of 19. Although the league-mandated year off was not a penalty in terms of eligibility for future years, the relocation knocked a season off of King’s basketball life.
“Things happen and sometimes you have to realize some places just aren’t the right fit,” he added.
Even though he enjoyed a productive 2009-10 season as a redshirt sophomore — 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds while averaging 19 minutes over a span of 32 games — issues away from basketball caused King to transfer yet again, this time out of the NCAA and into the NAIA via Concordia University Irvine.
“Off-court issues weren’t helping at all – let’s put it that way,” he said when referring to what one American media outlet reported to be “marijuana use” but team officials called “personal reasons.”
“I had some things going on at home that I had to take care of,” King added. “Stuff happens, it’s in the past now. It’s time to turn over a new leaf.”
While he may used to packing his bags and moving on to something new, one of the youngest Lightning players knows professional basketball is a different beast than what he’s experienced in college.
“This is my first time being in a professional basketball setting so I’m learning how the business is,” he said. “It’s ruthless. If you’re not doing your job you’re going to get sent home.”
The 12 roster spots in which NBL teams are granted have not been held by the same players who were introduced by the Lightning at a news conference Aug. 23. In fact, 17 players have donned the yellow and black during the club’s short stint in the Forest City.
It’s common knowledge most minor league basketball players, in the NBL and elsewhere, require skill polishing. King agrees, noting his play for the Lightning has not shown his true potential.
“I need to work on my quickness,” he said, “my lateral ability, and my defense needs to get a lot better.”
Teammate DeAnthony Bowden, who has played under Richardson before, said the former All-American is doing just fine as an off-the-bench spark plug.
“Everybody on this team has a job to do, and we look for him to shoot the basketball,” Bowden, 31, said. “Everything else that he does is a plus for us.”
As King and the Lightning continue to grind through their 36-game schedule, the former Mr. Basketball’s dream of playing in the NBA is still alive.
His numerous arm tattoos — including “living one day at a time” — act as reminders, a reflection of King’s unalterable past, precious present and potentially bright future.