The moment O’Connell’s season ended last winter with a win in the consolation game of the Alhambra Catholic Invitational, Jamaal King knew his time had come.
All-Met Player of the Year Melo Trimble was headed to play at Maryland, leaving a void of talented leadership for the Knights that King, the team’s second-leading scorer, would now be expected to carry. But with King’s slight, 5-foot-9 stature and the elite skills that Trimble displayed in his four years at O’Connell, the opinion among some was that those shoes were too large for King to fill.
“Melo is a great player and losing him is big, but I want to show that me and my teammates can step in and lead us to the promised land,” King said. “I know a lot of that will start with me, and as a team, I feel like we can put ourselves in a situation to still succeed.”
This summer has served as a solid springboard in King’s quest, from improving his skills to drawing more interest on the recruiting trail to serving as a key component in D.C. Premier’s inaugural summer on the AAU circuit, which culminated Sunday with a win against Louisiana Dynasty to capture the Las Vegas Fab 48 17-and-under division title.
King scored a team-high nine points off the bench, including a key three-pointer late in the second half that capped a 10-0 run by Premier. King’s contribution helped avenge the loss he suffered in last year’s Fab 48 championship as a part of D.C. Assault’s 16-and-under team and helped repeat the success of Assault’s 17-and-under team, which won the title last summer behind Trimble.
“We don’t have a lot of big names on the team; just a lot of really good players who play well together,” said King, who played alongside All-Met Jon Davis (formerly of Clinton Christian), third-team All-Met Eric Bowles (W.T. Woodson), DeMatha’s Terrell Allen and Clinton Christian’s Develle Phillips, among other. “Our bigs and defense really helped us out because after our bigs started good, they started doubling down on them and that opened up shots for me and helped us get out in transition.”
A major focus of King’s entering the offseason was to improve the consistency of his jump shot. At times, the guard’s stroke was dead-on, such as when he scored a team-high 24 points in a win against Gonzaga. But King admittedly grew cold at times, leading to a tough stretch at end the season.
King’s improved touch from the outside, as well as his added strength in helping him get to the bucket and defend bigger guards, helped him garner an offer from Robert Morris this past weekend. The crafty guard also holds an offer from St. Francis and is drawing strong interest from the likes of Hawaii, Bowling Green, Maine, Siena and Southern Mississippi. King said he plans to take an official visit to Hawaii sometime in August.
“Last year I played the two mostly with Melo, but my Premier coaches had me play the point and show I can do facilitate and do more than score as a guard,” King said. “I think that will help me going into next season with what I’ll be doing at O’Connell. It’s going to be a big year for us.”
Recruit Watch: The latest offers, commitments and signings
Summer workouts: Paul VI’s Frank Howard works his way back into form