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January 19, 2014

LeBron's HS coach talks V.J. King

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KETTERING, Ohio -- V.J. King might not be LeBron James and it seems he doesn't have to be.

It's a point that Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary coach Dru Joyce tries to make clear.

"I told V.J. from the first day he walked in the building at St. Vincent-St. Mary -- when I first met him -- I said, 'Look. I want you to grow to be the best V.J. King you can be,'" he said.

"The comparisons, I'll leave that for everyone else. He's got a skill set that I think is above a lot of guys his age, I think his basketball IQ is growing he's becoming much more physical than when he first came because he's in the weight room, he's getting stronger so all those things are going to lead into the kinda player he's going to end up being."

The kind of player King could go grow into could be special considering the 6-foot-7, 185-pound sophomore forward has garnered attention from a bevy of major college basketball programs -- including official offers from schools like Connecticut, Iowa State, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Of course, Joyce probably knows a bit about what elite basketball talent looks like. He helped mold James, a two-time NBA champion and Miami Heat megastar, through his high school years with the Irish.

"He's young and he's a great player. I mean he's very skilled, I mean you all can see all that," Joyce said.

"But, you know, he's a sophomore, he's got a lot of time to develop and I was telling him this morning, you know, V.J., relax. Just relax You gotta be aggressive but you still gotta be smart. You were aggressive but you weren't real smart. Today, I thought he relaxed, he got after it, he took good shots for the most part -- still had a couple bad ones in there -- but when you do that, he's starting to show how his game is progressing.

"Last year, he's primarily a jump shooter. Now he's taking the ball to the rim, he's getting the ball to the rim, he's getting to the free throw line. That's all the stuff you want happening."

King seemed to breathe life into Joyce's praise by dropping 30 points on 9-of-18 shooting and totaling eight rebounds against University High School (Normal, Ill.) Sunday night as part of the Flyin' To The Hoop Tournament in suburban Dayton.

"I'm trying to make him understand, let us find an easy shot for you, let us get you an easy basket," Joyce said. "They all don't have to be the tough ones. So just run some sets, let's try to get you an easy one and let's take a little pressure off."

But the pressure off the court -- like the schools who are incessantly courting King and the media members who are starting to swarm him after games like Sunday's -- is something Joyce can't so easily alleviate.

"We tell him that you can control what you can control, that's the basketball. We can't control what you guys [media] do, we can only control what goes on those courts and that's what I told 'Bron and that's how we went about it," Joyce said.

"Focus on what we're trying to do. Control what you can control -- your attitude, your effort. Let all that other stuff go because, hey, everybody's in your face now but if you trip it they're gonna be gone."

Maybe it's why, at least for now, King deflects any and all questions concerning his recruitment.

"Honestly, I really don't get into that. You have to ask my dad about that, he kinda takes care of that kinda stuff. Most of the big-time colleges are looking at me. You'll have to ask my dad about that one," King, politely but firmly, said. "I couldn't tell you honestly, have to focus on my game, trying to finish high school right now."

To be sure, living in Akron almost certainly adds pressure to give Ohio's flagship school in Ohio State a hard and careful look when toiling over college choices for the two-and-a-half years. Not to mention, James -- arguably St. Vincent-St. Mary's most famous alum -- is blatantly open about his allegiance, affiliation and fandom for the Buckeyes.

"I mean, it's pressure because of who I am and, obviously, you know who went to this school before I did so it's definitely pressure but I try not to focus on that," King said.

After all, he's just a sophomore.

"I can't speak for his family, that's a family decision but I'm really hoping that it's wide open right now. He's only a sophomore, let's leave this thing wide open, I share something with his dad and I just believe let them recruit you. Don't make a commitment, just let them recruit you because he deserves to be recruited," Joyce said.

"I can say this: when Thad Matta first came in to Ohio, he called me, he called a lot of high school coaches and I said, 'Thad, if you wanna be successful you gotta keep the best players in Ohio in Ohio.' I'll leave it at that."



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