Overcoming obstacles not foreign to King

The path to stardom is rarely a smooth journey, and no one knows that better than incoming freshman Keala King. The Mater Dei (Calif.) standout has had to deal with one challenge after another in the last few years, and those experiences have molded his game on the court and his personality off of it.

The 6-5 200 Keala King grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton. This crime- ridden area is one has seen numerous athletes get caught up in the destructive environment and ultimately see their dreams of playing college sports crushed.

There are also players, such as King, who successfully battled the negative elements and prevailed.

"It was pretty hard looking back," King recalled. "My mom would tell me that I couldn't go outside at certain times to play basketball because the roughnecks were coming through the neighborhood. I had to be an independent person and that helped me be the player and the person I am now."

Even in the safe confines of his home, King still had challenges to overcome. He grew up in a single parent setting and his mom was stricken last year with breast cancer. She underwent surgery and was able to recover, yet her condition was naturally something that always weighed heavily on King's mind during his senior season.

"My uncle David is my mentor and he helped me to get through some of that stuff," King confessed. "My friends have been there for me too. It wasn't an easy situation obviously but it wasn't hard and I was able to deal with it.

"I had a lot of people helping me but I also learned to depend more on myself and not on others. It definitely made me a tougher player and tougher person."

King was a key reserve at Compton Dominguez High in his sophomore year on a team that beat Mater Dei for the CIF Southern Section's I-AA title. He averaged 16 points per game in 2008-2009 as the Dons advanced to the I-AA semifinals and earned San Gabriel Valley League Player of the Year as well as first-team Press-Telegram Dream Team.

Nonetheless, the wing player didn't receive heavy recruiting attention during his campaign from Arizona State or any other high major schools for that matter.

"I was more the person playing behind Jordan Hamilton (a five-star prospect who signed with Texas)," King explained. "I didn't mind that because he was a great player and I learned a lot seeing how he handled himself. I tried to handle myself the same way."

The Sun Devils entered the recruiting picture in a strong manner during last year's July evaluation period.

"ASU was always around when they really started to recruit me," King commented. "My bond with Coach Taylor and Coach Smith got to a very high level. ASU's recruiting was well organized and very professional. They never tried to cheat the system or anything like that. All those little things they did really caught my eye."

Arizona, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Kentucky were among the schools that had offered King as well.

King verbaled to the Sun Devils last September and in a rare move for basketball player transferred just prior to his senior year to Mater Dei to play out his eligibility.

"When I transferred to Mater Dei playing with two great players such as Gray Franklin and Tyler Lamb I knew I had to take a certain role and really play team ball," King stated. "After Jordan left Compton Dominguez I really didn't have any good players around me, and it was good going to Mater Dei which had two great players that were willing to take the challenge with me and see how far we can go. So I was willing to share with them."

King averaged 15.7 ppg 9.5 rpg and 3.3 apg for the 32-2 Monarchs. His accomplishments netted him a Top 100 overall ranking on Scout.com, and he was ranked 17th among the nation's small forwards in the 2010 class.

King arrived in Tempe during the first week of July and is naturally still adjusting to life on and off the basketball court.

"People are getting to know me and I'm creating bonds with my teammates," King said. "I'm still trying to get used to the heat but I'm happy I'm here at ASU and I'm trying to build on what we did last year. It's been an adjustment playing on a college court which is bigger than a high school court. It's been good playing with the newer guys on the team and guys that I never played with before."

The incoming freshman has been hard at work in the team's weight and conditioning program.

"I've been lifting with Ty Abbott and he is a tremendous workaholic," King stated. "He's helping me get to that level where I can go out and compete with the other guys on the college level. I'm also working on my off-ball movement. When I watch film of myself I noticed that I stood a lot in the corner and I need to start keep on moving and come off picks. I know the coaches want me to play the 1 and if I do that I need to move a lot and help get players open."

Indeed, his versatility will present him opportunities to play point guard and present ASU's opponents different looks.

"I don't know if the coaches will put that much pressure on me and have me play point guard all the time," King remarked, "but if they want me to I will. If they want me to share the point guard with great players like Jamelle (McMillan) and Brandon (Dunson) I will. I played with a great point guard at Mater Dei in Gray Franklin and I learned a lot from him how to play the position."

Some pundits will undoubtedly predict a rough transition year for the maroon and gold who will have seven newcomers on their roster. Granted, conditioning workouts and pickup games can only go so far in terms of predictions, yet King feels very confident in the team's prospects for the 2010-11 campaign.

"I think we're going to look very good," King affirmed. "I've seen some people ranking us 4th in the Pac-10, but we should be number one. If we go hard in the games as we have been in these workouts we'll be a good team. All the players are willing to listen to the veterans and by getting that experience from them I think we're going to come out and play well from the start of the season."

King is by far the most heralded member of the 2010 class, but it doesn't allow that fact to put added pressure on him or create a notion that he will have to do more than usual to carry the squad. His team-first mentality won't allow him to do that.

"Personally, I'm approaching this season doing what Coach Sendek wants me to do on the floor," King said. "Whatever he will ask me to do I'm willing to do. I'm not even thinking about coming in more highly ranked than the other freshmen. All I want to do is bond with them because they will always be there with me during the season whether we win or lose.

"Rankings don't matter. All I want to do is win."

Sun Devil Source Top Stories