Next season, Joey King will play professionally with the Kataja basketball team in Joensuun, Finland. Kataja is a part of Krisliiga, Finland’s top basketball league. According to the Gopher release, he will join former Gopher Austin Hollins in Finland. Hollins plays for rival Kauhajoki Karhu. (If you can speak Finnish/Swedish, here’s the team’s official release.)
The above paragraph contains a number of words I can’t pronounce, but either way, it’s still an exciting development. If you’re someone who can’t feel happy for Joey King, you may not have a fully functioning heart. King was unquestionably the emotional leader of the 2015-16 Minnesota Golden Gophers. But, for a moment, we’ll set that aside and just consider the numbers.
King finished his collegiate career with 1,140 points and 403 rebounds. He played three seasons with Minnesota and one with Drake (the university in Des Moines, Iowa, not the rapper).
His shooting made him a dramatic weapon. Over his career he shot 83.2 percent from the free throw line and 38.7 percent from three. (His shooting, as a 6’9” forward, will help him tremendously in Europe, and more generally, as he continues his post-collegiate basketball career.)
His emotional leadership offered a beacon of light in the storm of Minnesota’s year. From a record perspective and from an off-the-court standpoint, the season didn’t go well, but King lifted spirits.
As a senior, he knew Minnesota didn’t have any post-season tournaments in its future. His final year of college basketball was essentially him surrounded by young talent, navigating all the typical growing pains.
King also played a bit out of position, at least defensively. He’s better guarding primarily threes and fours, but because of Minnesota’s youth and lack of depth, King guarded fours and sometimes fives when Minnesota moved to a smaller lineup. He never pouted; he always showed up.
In fact, part way through the year, King accepted coming off the bench. He still average 29 minutes a game (and played the second most minutes on the team), but for a senior, on a terrible team, he demonstrated tremendous class and selflessness.
After Minnesota upset Maryland at the Barn, he cemented his status as one of the most loved, sympathetic Gophers ever. Anyone who watches that clip can tell the losing began to wear on him, not so much that he let it show, but finally winning a big game in front of the home crowd, meant a lot to him and the fans.
The Gopher season officially fell apart almost immediately after that win, but it was a bright moment for the Gophers and for Joey King.
Kataja’s one of the better teams in the Finnish league, or at least they have been more recently. They won the Krisliiga championship in 2015 and reached the quarterfinals last year.
King will be the only American on Kataja, but he’s not the only recent University of Minnesota graduate to play for them. Dan Coleman was on the roster in the 2012-13 season.
It’s easy to feel happy for Joey King, or at least it should be. From Eagan, Minnesota, he wanted to play closer to home for family reasons, and by all accounts he’s a good guy, who drudged through a tough senior season. So, it’s great to see him get an opportunity to continue his basketball career.