Anthony King is ready to take the bull by the horns. He's ready to take the University of Miami men's basketball team from being a middle of the pack team to an upper echelon team that finds its way into the NCAA Tournament at the end of the season.
Now, with the bullseye on his chest as the guy that opponents will be looking to stop first and foremost, King knows the onus is on him to make a huge contribution to the team, not just defensively as he has in the past two seasons, but on the offensive end.
It's why he found himself working out three times a day in the gym, trying to improve his game in order to make himself a more versatile player that can not only beat a defender in the block with his almost automatic jump hook that he can put up with either hand, but extending his range to be a consistent jump shooter from anywhere within 15 feet of the basket.
"Everyone has worked on their game this summer," King said. "From oldest to youngest, we're working on our game. We are very young, but we've been running a lot.
"I worked everyday in the off season. I've been putting up a lot of jump shots just working on my outside game. I went to the gym three times a day and took way over 200 shots a day.'
But King also said that this summer has found the team working on the fast break and trying to get opponents into a track meet. With a team that has more depth than what coach Frank Haith has had in his first two seasons, King doesn't care how the ‘Canes get the job done, just as long as they get it done.
"However you want it," King said. "I can run man, I can run man. I want to run. I have no problem with running, any way you like it, doesn't matter, running, half court, doesn't matter."
But the key ingredient to King's game besides that improved jump shot that he's spoken so much about is his being a leader on the team, not just in action, but vocally. Known to be a reserved quiet type of laid back character, the coaches have told King he needs to let his voice be heard, especially by his younger teammates which there are plenty of on this team.
"That's a big part of my game, me being vocal," King said. "That's going to help me help out my teammates a lot. I am quiet and laidback, but the coaches say that it's important for me to be vocal."
But with the losses of the team's top two scorers of the past two seasons in Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite, King doesn't see it as something that will hurt the team. However, he views at something that will allow other players to shine and give resemblance to the 2001-2002 team that featured John Salmons, Elton Tyler, Darius Rice, James Jones and Marcus Barnes just a few years back. That team won a UM record 24 games, advanced to the NCAA Tournament and although it got knocked out in the first round by Missouri, it was a squad that didn't allow opponents to key in on one particular guy.
"So far it hasn't been difficult making the adjustment," King said. "If you watch us practice, a lot of us can score, it's just the point of us moving without the ball. There could be a lot of people in double figures.
"That would be ideal for us. It would be a good thing for us."
Another good thing for Miami will be the emergence of Jack McClinton whom King seems to admire quite a bit. Although he didn't play one second last season due to being a transfer and having to sit out, King sees McClinton's ability and sees a player that could very well lead the team in scoring this year when all is said and done.
"Jack is a gym rat. I know everyone is saying the same thing, but he is," King said. "He is always there (gym) during the day. He gets out of class at 11 and just spends the rest of the day shooting. He shoots so much. You can really see it. He works on his game all the time. I wouldn't be surprised (if he led the team in scoring)."
What also impresses King about McClinton is his on the ball defensive ability.
"A lot of us can play defense, but if you noticed, last year, a play could be 10 seconds on the shot clock, someone could let down. Jack doesn't let down," King said.
But the difference as King said is one or two games. After being picked to finish last in the conference two seasons ago, the ‘Canes finished a surprising 7-9. Even last year, the ‘Canes finished with an identical 7-9 conference record even though they were expected to do a bit more.
King wants those one or two games that separate Miami from being an NIT team to an NCAA Tournament team.
"There are one or two games that could separate from being in the middle to the top half," King said. "We have to be, as leaders, make sure the young guys follow us (good example) and not be in that same pack again.
"By capitalizing on other people's mistakes, making sure we get that three-point play, the little things. We just have to do it."
And it starts with the man in the middle, Anthony King.
Rudy Rodriguez-Chomat can be reached at email@example.com
King Ready for Challenge
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