Middle Tennessee State’s Nick King flourishing after battling health problems

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 20, 2018 at 10:20 pm Contact Eric: [email protected] | @esblack34 UPDATED: Feb. 21, 2018 at 12:10 a.m.Nick King couldn’t stop coughing. His coughs turned into coughing spasms, which turned into vomiting. At one point, his throat was so sore that he had no desire to eat and lost 15 pounds in the span of seven days.It got so bad that he couldn’t perform daily functions or sleep and even had to stop doing the thing he loved most — playing basketball for Alabama. So, the junior forward went to the hospital, where it took a few days to figure out what was going on.Eventually, King was diagnosed with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, a staph bacteria infection that usually occurs in people who spend time in health care settings, per the Mayo Clinic, in his lungs. He was shut down for the next two weeks, and after that rehabbed. By the time rehab was over, the season was almost over, and there was no point in coming back.One year and a new team later, King, now a fifth-year senior at Middle Tennessee State, leads the Blue Raiders in scoring, at 21.4 points per game, and rebounding, with 8.4 a night. He’s played in each of MTSU’s 27 games this year after playing a combined seven games over the past two seasons at Alabama and has his team in the driver’s seat of Conference-USA. It’s a stark change from his first four years of college, when he averaged just 6.9 points per game and struggled to find time on the court.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe 37th-overall recruit in the class of 2013 per ESPN and the 4th-best from the state of Tennessee, King originally committed to his hometown team of Memphis. He began his college career averaging 16 points in his first three games, but didn’t start a game and scored double-digit points just twice the rest of the season. The following year, as a sophomore, he started seven games, averaging just under 19 minutes and 7.2 points per game. It wasn’t enough.“I just felt like I didn’t have a good opportunity,” King said, “And I needed to get away from home and get in a program that fit me more.”So, King transferred to the University of Alabama, where he was drawn to head coach Avery Johnson’s NBA pedigree. He fell in love with the town of Tuscaloosa and the campus itself, which hosted him for his first-ever official college visit. He sat out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules but was ready to go for the Crimson Tide in the fall of 2016.He only played in seven games for Alabama, starting the last two in which he combined for 32 minutes. He’d ramped up from 12 minutes total in his first two. He wasn’t healthy though, and even during his last two contests he felt the effects of the condition. After scoring just 23 points total during the season, King’s junior year abruptly came to an end.Once diagnosed with MRSA, King began receiving antibiotics and treatment for the infection. He got to the point where he was able to work out but couldn’t practice with the team. Along with the medical attention he received, King said, the ability to still play basketball while rehabbing helped him get through the sickness. He was left with just one year of eligibility remaining, however, and decided to transfer again, this time to Middle Tennessee. The opportunity to be in a program where’d he both be able to succeed individually and have a chance to play in the NCAA tournament in his last year of college was too good to pass up.“After he left Memphis we fired a shot (but) he still kind of had the Power Five in his blood,” MTSU head coach Kermit Davis said. “Then when he made the decision to leave Alabama and got the release, we were there the next day.”Even though recruiting King originally was a long shot, the Raiders were able to catch him after he left Alabama in part, Davis thinks, because of the “perfect fit” King could serve at power forward.MTSU had been led by forwards JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw the year before, two players with similar builds as King. The team had reached the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed and upset Minnesota in the first round, and it wasn’t the first time the Raiders had been paced by their frontcourt. Since the 2013-14 season, between Williams, Upshaw and Shawn Jones, MTSU’s leading scorer has been a forward standing either 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 inches tall.Jones won C-USA player of the year in 2014, while Williams is the reigning player of the year in the conference. King, who is 6-7, was an easy addition for the Raiders, who lost both Williams and Upshaw to graduation.“Middle Tennessee is a perfect fit for an undersized 4-man who can stretch the floor,” senior guard Edward Simpson said. “Once (King) saw the system, spoke with JaCorey, who was also a transfer last year, it made his decision a lot easier.”Finally healthy and getting an opportunity in the perfect offensive system for him, King has thrived. Leading C-USA in both field goals made and attempted, King’s efficiency hasn’t wavered, as his field goal percentage is his highest since his freshman year and his 3-point percentage is his highest ever. In his past three games, three MTSU wins, he’s averaged 25.7 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting 8-16 from 3.The stretch is part of the Raiders’ nine-game winning streak that has upped their conference record to 14-1 and their overall record to 22-5. King has a good chance to win MTSU’s third player of the year award in five years, while the Raiders look primed to make their third-straight NCAA tournament appearance. After four years of frustration and uncertainty, King is finally achieving what he’s wanted to accomplish since high school.“I haven’t been able to show what I can do since I’ve been in college,” King said. “(Now), I’ve got an opportunity and taken full advantage … my goal this season is just to win. Win the conference, win the conference tournament, do everything we can to have a great year.”CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, the time frame in which Nick King could win his third player of the year award was misstated. If he wins this season, King would receive the award for the third time in five years. The Daily Orange regrets this error. Commentslast_img

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