Before the Badgers get Kobe King on campus this summer, the Wisconsin native is spending one of his last high school weekends at the state track and field meet at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. King, a senior at La Crosse Central high school, will be a major draw when he gets set for the high jump on Friday.
In his first year out for track, King is still a raw jumper, but his athleticism comes through clearly. The 6-foot-4 King cleared 6-06 at sectionals to qualify for state, a couple of months after clearing 6-04 in his first ever meet. That puts King in the picture for a state title, as last year’s Wisconsin Division 1 champion cleared 6-foot-8 at state.
That athleticism should serve the Badgers well over the next several years, potentially starting this winter. King and fellow incoming freshman Brad Davison are entering a Wisconsin program that is in transition in the backcourt after losing Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter and Jordan Hill.
Playing time should be available, as sophomores D’Mitrik Trice and Brevin Pritzl are the most experienced guards on the roster. King and Davison will likely have every opportunity to earn playing time, and both should have the ability to play either guard position.
King is currently showing an athleticism that few Wisconsin guards have had over the years. Showalter has been the explosive one the past several years, but at 6-foot-3 and primarily playing off the ball his jumping ability primarily showed up on tip-dunk opportunities early in his career.
King will likely have the ball in his hands more over the course of his time in Madison, and should have the ability to create his own shot while also defending multiple positions.
Wisconsin’s other standout guards haven’t necessarily done it with their athleticism. Koenig was a strong ballhandler and knockdown shooter who wasn’t asked to attack the basket too often.
The Final Four teams of 2014 and 2015 featured a confident leader at point guard in Traevon Jackson, with the defensively-focused Josh Gasser typically playing off the ball. Ben Brust could get to the rim in 2014, but he was primarily a 3-point threat on the way to averaging 12.8 points per game.
Going back further, Jordan Taylor could create his own shot but primarily did if from behind the 3-point line. Jordan Bohannon was also a long-range shooter while playing alongside one of the quickest players in Wisconsin history in Trevon Hughes, who stood at 6-feet tall.
The standard for Wisconsin guards is the play of Devin Harris from 2001-04 before. Harris is the exception, boasting a lot of athleticism and regularly using it on both ends of the court on the way to being named the Big Ten Player of the Year and being selected fifth overall in the 2004 NBA Draft.
It’ll be interesting to see how King’s skill-set translates, as the Badgers typically don’t put their guards in a position to get out and run. While King can get out and go, he brings a lot more to the table, having averaged 27 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game on the way to being named Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball this past year.
Wisconsin typically gets the most of their players and it’ll be fun to see how this plays out with the freshman class that includes three four-star players in King, Davison and Nate Reuvers.