Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Memphis Tigers' Nick King to Transfer

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 10:45 AM

I loved Nick King the first time I saw him in a Memphis Tiger uniform. Less than six months after being named a Parade All-American at East High School, King came off the bench and scored 13 points in 15 minutes in the Tigers' 2013-14 season-opening win over Austin Peay. Five days later, King was the lone bright spot in a flogging the Tigers took at Oklahoma State: 23 points in 15 minutes (eight of 12 from the field). I saw another King — Hall of Famer Bernard — in the way Nick King found ways to score from multiple locations, in traffic, near the rim. King would carry the homegrown torch at the U of M, one proudly held before by Larry Finch, Andre Turner, Elliot Perry, Penny Hardaway, and so many others.

Turns out King will carry that torch from afar. The U of M announced this morning that King and fellow sophomore Pookie Powell will transfer. (Powell's reduced role late in the season — behind junior Kedren Johnson — makes the point guard's departure less surprising than King's. The irony is that point guard will remain a bigger question mark for the Tigers next season than the forward spot King occupied.)

King-1.jpg

After averaging 4.9 points and 3.3 rebounds as a freshman, King's numbers improved to 7.2 and 4.8 this past season, though his field-goal percentage plummeted from 52 percent to 40. He was hampered by an ankle injury that lingered, costing him four games and countless minutes of full health on the floor. King has never been a lock-down defender, and the weakened ankle didn't help his mobility on either end of the floor. He started only seven games and averaged fewer than 19 minutes in the 24 games in which he played.

King's transfer will increase turbulence for Tiger coach Josh Pastner, one more case of a coach bringing "elite talent" to campus . . . and losing his grip prematurely. (King and Adonis Thomas would be interesting panelists in this discussion.) King seemed to be given every chance to assume a leadership role this winter. Along with Austin Nichols and Shaq Goodwin, King appeared on promotional posters and the cover of the team's media guide, a premium spotlight for a college player who entered the season without a single start.

King started the first five games of the season, but alarms went off when he failed to score in 25 minutes against Stephen F. Austin (a Tiger loss) on December 2nd. How long would it take for King to impact games — positively — for the Tigers? As Pastner moved (again) to a more guard-centric starting lineup, King found himself on the bench. I actually thought King and Kuran Iverson could give the Tigers the best reserve unit in the American Athletic Conference. What a silly notion that seems now.

King and Powell will have to sit out the 2015-16 season, and they cannot transfer to another AAC school. King may or may not be missed by Tiger fans, as the incoming Lawson brothers will surely absorb the void in minutes left behind. You get the feeling King's departure will be linked to Pastner's story, whether the coach regains his footing and leads the Tigers back to the NCAA tournament, or leaves (for Arizona State?) before yet another talented recruit proves to be an uncomfortable fit on his roster.

I still think Nick King will light up a college scoreboard. It'll be interesting to see which colors he's wearing when he does so.

photo by Larry Kuzniewski

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