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May 23, 2012
Vincent King Sr. recalls the hype surrounding his son, VJ, beginning when the boy was just 12 years old.
"That's when the transformation came," King said. "It was about that time that we really started to realize that he might have something special."
In the short time since, the hoopla surrounding VJ King has only grown stronger as the eighth grader at Charlotte (N.C.) United Christian Academy has consistently seen his name appear near the top of national prospect rankings for his 2016 class. Already standing 6-feet-5 with a mature body and good athleticism, King has been able to dominate against older competition for some time now, and scouts have noticed.
However, in the next month he'll have to take on an off-court challenge that is tough for any teenager to handle: He's changing cities.
"My dad just got a job in Akron," VJ, who just turned 15, told OhioPreps.com, "and we found out that it's going to be a full-time contract so we're moving up there for good in late June."
Northeast Ohio is familiar for the younger King. In fact, he was born there.
"I was raised in Charlotte, but I'm originally from Ohio, like both of my parents," he said. "It's kind of cool to be going back to where my parents were raised."
When it was determined that he was coming to Ohio, the next step was to pick a school. And as a basketball prodigy, he chose to enroll at St. Vincent-St. Mary's, one of the Buckeye State's most storied programs over the last decade. SVSM is famous nationwide for producing LeBron James.
King James' high school coach, Dru Joyce, still reigns supreme at St. Vincent-St. Mary's, and VJ is excited to learn from the man who helped mold arguably the best player in the game today.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity to walk into a great situation like St. Vincent's," he said. "Coach Joyce is a great coach, and I just want to try and learn as much as I can from him over the next four years."
As he gets older, King will be forced to deal with the unavoidable hype that comes from all the national rankings.
"There are a lot of great athletes in his class," his father stated. "Fortunately he's been blessed to be mentioned with them. I can't be all that surprised, though, because he works so hard at it. We've always told him that is something that no one can ever take away from him, how hard he works."
While recruiting pundits from North Carolina to Ohio have consistently billed King as one of the top 10 rising freshmen in the country, the hype doesn't seem to affect his game.
"I don't really pay attention to the media publicity or the hype from people from my city," he said. "I'm more focused on working hard and trying to be the best player that I can be."
"He's not focused on being the next LeBron to come through Akron," his father said. "He'll be the first VJ King."
As for his game, King is blessed beyond his years with a mature offensive feel, a smooth attacking game and a deadly jump shot with three-point range. The talented youngster can play either guard spot, and he has the athleticism and instincts to take over games with his physical tools, while being skilled enough to handle older and more mature defenders.
"I shoot the ball pretty well, I'm good at getting my teammates involved, I can go by people and score it," King said. "I just play an all-around game."
That all-around game is modeled, to some extent, after James. King watches at every opportunity as a student of the game.
"I watch LeBron to see how he plays on both ends of the floor and impacts the game in different ways," he said. "I also like watching Kevin Durant because he's such a versatile scorer, and of course Kobe (Bryant) because of his ability to take over games."
King certainly has all the physical tools to one day follow in their NBA footsteps. He is planning on spending his first summer in Akron in the gym to continue to master his jump shot, while getting stronger with weightlifting.
Playing up one grade, and sometimes two, on the AAU circuit with the Columbus-based All-Ohio Red outfit, one of Nike's elite teams, King certainly will continue to garner more attention from college coaches as the July evaluation period rolls around. But the close-knit family isn't ready to expose VJ to all of that.
Vincent Sr. says: "Our attitude in the house is that it's really not time to talk about schools right now. We don't involve VJ in that process yet. Letters come to the house, and we're excited and appreciative of them, but we still recognize that he has a long way to go. A lot can change between now and his junior year, when he really would start getting recruited, and we want him just to be able to focus clearly on getting better and enjoying the process.
"We figure that if we work hard and he continues to do everything he can on the court, then the process will take care of itself with VJ being a really highly regarded athlete.
"We've seen a lot about kids talking about offers and interest, and we just have the approach that we want to keep our head down so we can do it right when it's time to handle the recruitment for real."