Arguably the most complete and talent laden team on the EYBL circuit this spring and summer is none other than the King James 17’s.
Littered with talent including Duke guard commitment Luke Kennard, Ohio State point guard verbal A.J. Harris, as well as others receiving high major interest and offers such as Kyle Ahrens and Kipper Nichol, a young, versatile prospect getting things done on both ends of the floor for King James is 2016 St. Vincent (Ohio) St. Mary’s five-star wing V.J. King.
But throw out all of the rankings, the offers, the hype, and everything else that comes with highly competitive AAU basketball at the 17’s level, King James, and King in particular, pride themselves on remaining a team first.
“This team is without question elite, but so is everybody else in the EYBL,” King’s father Vince said. “And it’s important to try and be consistent and I think with this team we’re battling some roster issues.
“One of our bigs is not quite back yet and another one of our guys Kyle Ahrens, who’s just a stud, he’s just coming back from breaking his leg so I told him Kyle, I have to applaud you for coming back the way you are.”
“But we’ll get it together, the boys are resilient and we’ve been here before with our backs against the wall. Last year they had to qualify to even get in because King James didn’t have an EYBL team on the circuit. We went through all the stops and won just about every step we went to.”
6-foot-5, 175-pounds and long armed, King brings quite a bit of skill and superior athleticism to the table out on the floor.
Finishing off the weekend 1-3 at a recent AAU tournament in California, King says he certainly had some conversations with his son about his play, as they do after every game, but also was sure to remind him this season, much like his playing career, is a marathon and not a sprint.
“I don’t have to say a whole lot,” King said. “We assess each game, sometimes it takes a little longer, sometimes it’s 30 seconds, sometimes it’s five minutes but the one game where I thought he didn’t play like himself, he took good shots and he just didn’t make them. That’s going to happen but he was a great teammate and continued to try to do everything he could defensively which is nice.
“I try to tell him all the time, elite kids find ways to do things positively when their thing isn’t going the way they want it to and his thing wasn’t going the way he wanted it to.”
Name a high major, low major or even a community college, every program in the country has interest in talking with and recruiting the highly sought after King.
Not yet wrapping up his sophomore year of high school, King can still remain in the shadow though, away from direct communication and the hoopla that comes with a high profile, drawn out recruiting process.
Until that changes come June 15, the King’s are completely fine taking a back seat to all of the attention.
“He’s not really worried about his recruitment,” King’s father said. “This thing that we’ve been going through started a long time ago. This started in the sixth grade so for him it’s really about getting better and that’s as much as we think about it.
“I know people want to hear me say something else and I’m trying not to be political about it but I’m telling you we’re just trying to get him better every single workout, every single play, every single half, every single game and that’s really as far as it goes.
“After that, the coaches are going to make their assessment and they’re going to like it or they’re not. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it except stay with the process and the process is just getting better; that’s really it.”
Something King’s father preaches to his son daily is to control what he can control, and that means on and off the floor.
In the classroom, King is a high major student as well with thoughts of becoming an engineer or architect.
In the weight room, King is looking to improve and toughen up his body, a lesson learned from another former basketball star at St. Vincent St. Mary’s, now off competing for his third NBA championship this May.
“We work on staying flexible and that’s something LeBron (James) taught him,” King said. “I’d been preaching that his whole life but hey it wasn’t until LeBron mentioned it to him and all of the sudden now he believes in stretching and being limber, you know?
“We work on being mentally engaged, we can control that, we work on getting our rest, we can control that, we work on being a good teammate, we can control that; those are the things we can control and really that’s it.”
Not looking to publicize or over emphasize King’s relationship with Miami Heat star LeBron James, King says his son has the incredible opportunity of keeping in touch with and looking up to a player and person who for the most part has gotten things right in his career.
This, King says, is invaluable to his son’s development.
“He looks at me as a role model, and he looks at me as a father and he’s called me his mentor and I appreciate that but, the conversations he has with LeBron, again I use that word unquantifiable, that’s it,” King said. “I mean, this guy, never been in trouble with the law, outside of the decision he made for himself and his family, what negative can you say about this cat?
“He’s kind of allowed V.J. to understand, you’re going to do some things that I did, you’re going to go through some things that I went through, you’re going to say some things that I said, but let’s do this, learn from some of the mistakes I made and learn from some of the mistakes that I didn’t.
“And they talk in a different language than I do. And to show you how humble this guy is, he thanked me for allowing him to be in V.J.’s life; he thanked me; I was floored by that one.”
Five-stars attached to his name, a relationship with the best basketball player in the world, his eventual pick of any college he’d like to go to in the country; life is pretty good for V.J. King.
But inside the walls of the King home he’s just a brother, a son, and those chores better get done.
“Let me say something, he has an incredible support team,” King’s father said. “His mother is absolutely incredible and I need you to print that. She is incredible. She’s supportive, she’s understanding, she’s there in those moments when he needs to be stroked, when she needs to be stern, she’s there.
“His sister, you know a lot of people don’t talk about the siblings and what they go through, older or younger. And she is just a rock in all of this. She keeps V.J. so grounded. She’s a grade below him and she runs the house and she keeps him so grounded it’s ridiculous.
“She’s like don’t you for one second start believing your own hype, start reading your press clippings, get your hands in the soapy water and help me wash these dishes. It’s your turn to take the trash out, get on it. So, in that aspect, it’s easy and it’s a family effort.”