In the modern college basketball landscape, it’s almost as common for a player to transfer schools at some point during his career than it is for them to stay with one program the entire time.
It is, however, rare for a player to make three stops on his college journey. That’s been the case for Nick King, who spent time at Memphis and Alabama before finally winding up at Middle Tennessee.
As a member of the 2013 recruiting class, King was rated as the No. 42 overall player by the 247 Composite rankings. He received offers from a bevy of Power 5 schools like Florida, Texas and Tennessee before ultimately settling on his hometown school of Memphis.
King spent his first two years at Memphis, but was never able to carve out a bigger role than being a contributor off the bench. He transferred from the program following the 2014-15 season and took his game to Alabama.
While with the Crimson Tide, King’s lone season was cut short before it ever got started. He played in only seven games before an health issue with his lungs caused him to miss the rest of the season. Upon his graduation, he decided to transfer once again and decided on Middle Tennessee.
The decision to come to Murfreesboro has been a home run so far for King and the Blue Raiders. With King as the focal point of the offense, Middle Tennessee is off to a 6-1 start with two wins against Florida Gulf Coast and a road win against Vanderbilt.
One of the biggest reasons for King’s success early on has been how well he fits the mold of a small-ball 4 in Middle Tennessee’s scheme. Jacorey Williams thrived in that role last year, and King has followed suit.
In an interview with the Daily News Journal before the season, head coach Kermit Davis laid out his vision for what he felt King could do in that spot and even compared him to how Dillon Brooks was used on Oregon’s Final Four team:
Nick King is going to play the Dillion Brooks role for Middle Tennessee, and if you look at really the past steps of his career at Alabama and Memphis, he didn't play that position. Now, he's a mismatch.
The early returns have been very positive, and it’s not hard to envision a scenario in which King is Conference USA Player of the Year. Doing so would make him the second straight transfer to do so after Jacorey Williams won the award last year.
So, just how good has King been so far this year?
To start, he’s essentially scoring at will. He’s averaging 24.1 points per game through seven games, which is good for fifth in the country. He’s scored at least 20 points in six out of seven games, and even has two 30-point outings under his belt.
It’s not just the amount that he’s scoring, but rather the way he’s doing it. Despite being one of the most high usage players in the country, King has still managed to be efficient. He’s shooting over 56 percent from the floor on 15 attempts per game, and knocked in 6-15 threes thus far. To top it off, King is making 84 percent of his shots at the free throw line. All in all, he’s getting buckets all over the court.
Digging deeper into the numbers, it’s clear that King knows where his spots are. Over 80 percent of his shots come from shots at the rim or on two-point jumpers. On shots at the rim, King is converting at 60 percent, and he’s hitting 58.7 percent on his jumpers inside the arc.
King is too athletic for bigger fours to match up with, and he’s big enough at 6’7 to punish a smaller defender if they switch onto him. Like Kermit Davis said, he’s a mismatch all over the court.
Looking beyond the basketball aspect, it’s just great to see King find a place he’s comfortable at. So many times we chide these players for not living up to the arbitrary rankings that are placed upon them coming out of high school.
In Nick King’s case, he’s finally living up to the billing. It might have taken longer than he expected, but he’s finally found a home that fits him in Middle Tennessee. Let’s enjoy the monster year that he’s going to have.