FAIRDALE, Ky. — He’s already been to Louisville for a few campus visits, but Louisville basketball signee V.J. King came to the Louisville area over weekend for a different kind of experience.
King, a five-star, 6-foot-6 wing, came to play in the King of the Bluegrass Overtime game with his Paul VI High team, a powerhouse program from Fairfax (Va.), and he put on a show for his future fans.
In front of a packed house at Fairdale High, King carried Paul VI to a 103-51 win over North Bullitt High, tallying 35 points on 14-of-26 shooting, plus nine rebounds and four steals with Rick Pitino and his current Cards in the bleachers.
King is a member of the American Family Insurance ALL-USA Preseason Boys Basketball Team.
“I wasn’t stressed at all – it was fun,” King said as Louisville center Chinanu Onuaku gave him bunny ears and danced behind him. “I had a support system out here with me.”
King, one of the Top 25 prospects in the nation in the 2016 class, found himself closely following Louisville swingman Damion Lee, who plays the role King expects to have next season. Lee, a graduate transfer, is Louisville’s primary offensive weapon, serving as a scorer off the wing who can make shots inside and out.
“His role on the team, that’s what I’ve been told I’m filling in for next year,” King said, “so I definitely watch him in terms of where I’m going to fit in.”
In the first half of Saturday’s game, Louisville stifled WKU’s offense, holding the Hilltoppers to 33-percent shooting and just 16 points. The Cards’ fullcourt press was in full effect, with Western committing 12 first-half turnovers.
It was Louisville’s best defensive half of the season, and King noticed.
“It was fun to see the type of defense they play – and how much I have to pick that up,” King said, grinning.
King’s high school coach, Glenn Farello, repeated what he said in the spring, that finding consistency was King’s primary goal this season. He is already a proven scorer, averaging 28.5 points a game this young season, but he is working on being more active in every facet of each game.
“He’s a complete player,” Farello said. “He’s very versatile. As well as he scores the ball, he’s very unselfish … We’re excited about what he can accomplish. He’s very focused on getting better every day. He’s hungry.”
Speaking to the Louisville media for the first time since signing with Louisville back in November, King said the ongoing internal and NCAA investigations in the Cards’ basketball program had no impact on his decision to sign.
King said he didn’t speak with Louisville’s coaches all that much about the salacious allegations made by self-described escort Katina Powell. Instead, he valued his original commitment to Louisville and his close relationship with U of L assistant Kenny Johnson, who was an assistant at Paul VI High and also helped run the AAU program for which King played.
On Sunday, Louisville’s players and coaches returned that feeling, showing up in full force for King’s game. Every U of L player was there with the exception of Mangok Mathiang, who had surgery Sunday on his broken foot, and both Johnson and fellow assistant Mike Balado joined Pitino.
After the game finished, Loiusville fans lined up for photos with Pitino and King’s future teammates posed with him for a picture. It felt like a homecoming of sorts for the future Card.
“I just want to come in and try to contribute in whatever ways I can next year,” he said.