"We want him to look different every six months," Vincent King, father of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary superstar VJ King, said of his son's progression. After a final four finish at the AAU Nationals in late July, VJ does indeed looks different, putting on 8-10 pounds of muscle, in addition to improving his overall skill set. King, who is listed in the top ten of virtually every recruiting base in the country, is primed for a breakout sophomore season in the Rubber City, one with state championship implications.
Always having elite level talent, King enters 2013-'14 with a different mindset on the floor. Playing with Team USA's Under 16 team, King has developed an elite mindset to approaching basketball, and the nuances that come with national recognition. The sophomore is noticeably more vocal on the floor, something that wasn't apart of his game a year ago.
"Being around those guys was great for VJ," King's father said of Team USA. "And what is amazing is, they all have that same mindset. They don't let anything get to them."
Receiving a great deal of love from STVM's greatest alumni in LeBron James via Twitter and Instagram, King has taken James' advice to heart and implemented it on the floor.
"LeBron told him to be the best teammate that he can be," King's father said.
The younger King was brilliant on Thursday, slashing, shooting, distributing and making all the correct decisions, surely pleasing coach Dru Joyce II. King has excellent vision, and great height for his position, allowing him to see and make passes that most players his age just cannot make. The sophomore has also improved his jump shooting, most notably his step back from either wing, a shot that he relied on heavily in Orlando at nationals.
While many players in his position may allow all the hype and buzz surrounding their skills to get to their head, King has remained humble, a characteristic that his father constantly reinforces. Playing under the bright lights of the newly built LeBron James Arena, King has King-sized expectations for the remaining three years, and it is not unreasonable to believe that he can't surpass every last one of them.
Now, let's take a look at the talented core surrounding the sophomore combo-guard.
Jalen Hudson (6'5 SG, 2014):
Committed to Virginia Tech, Hudson is one of Ohio's top shooting guards in the class of 2014. With great size and athleticism for his position, Hudson is an excellent shooter from the perimeter that can also get it done around the rim. Matched up with King for a large part of Thursday's open gym, both players exchanged points, and also got after it on the defensive end. Look for Hudson to be a key leader on a team that fell one game short of a fifth state championship since 1999-'00, just one season ago.
Josh Williams (6'2 CG, 2015):
A transfer from nearby Barberton, Williams was arguably the top performer in the gym on Thursday. With an overall great feel for the game, Williams was the primary ball-handler on his unit, either scoring on distributing whenever he touched it. With great form on his jump shot, and an elite ability to attack the rim, Williams willed his team to a handful of wins, a trait that coaches desire out of a lead guard. With good vision and crisp touch on his passes, Williams is a huge addition for coach Joyce & Co.
Jibri Blount (6'7 SF, 2015):
Son of NFL Hall of Fame defensive back Mel Blount, the younger Blount carries that same tenacity that his father had on a vaunted Steel Curtain defense for the Pittsburgh Steelers. An excellent defender in the low post, Blount is a versatile forward that can run the floor with finesse, while also being able to bang in the post, Blount has good footwork to go along with a great vertical leap, complimented with a level of aggressiveness that is hereditary. Also a transfer, look for Blount to be a major addition to the Irish's front court in 2013-'14.
Jayvon Graves (6'0 PG, 2017):
One of Joyce's youngest players, Graves has a level of maturity on the floor that bodes well for his future at STVM. With elite level leaping ability, Blount is an active defender that can also get things going offensively. With a good pull-up jump shot, Graves can hit anywhere from the mid-range area to well beyond the three-point line. One a team stockpiled of guards, Graves looks to fight for minutes in 2013-'14, while being a reliable asset for the depth of the Irish.