By LARRY VAUGHT
One reason Lincoln County standout Emma King wanted to make her verbal commitment to Kentucky so early was so she could enjoy her final two high school basketball seasons as well as her final summer playing for Kentucky Premier.
Going into her senior season now, King could not be happier with the way things have gone, especially after her Kentucky Premier team won a Nike EYBL tournament for the first time in July. It was especially sweet for King because the team had lost a lot of Division I players — Blair Green of Kentucky, Seygan Robins of Louisville — off last year’s team and did not have as much expected of it this summer.
“Winning a Nike EYBL event was really a cool experience,” said King. “Everybody thought our team would be down, but we ended up doing a lot better than most expected. I think we just played so hard together. This was by far my favorite summer playing basketball. I learned a lot and am really grateful for the experience.”
King, a 5-11 guard, said it helped her that she didn’t have to worry what college coaches were watching — or not watching — when she played because she committed to Kentucky before her junior season. Kentucky coaches were there often to watch her play, but that didn’t put added pressure on her.
“I wanted to commit early because I did not want to worry about pleasing anybody else,” King said. “The UK coaches know what I can do. I am just working on what they tell me I need to work on, just learning as I go and taking their feedback.
“Every evaluation period they were allowed to be at, they came to see my games if they were at the tournament. I think there was only one game where nobody was there, and I knew that in advance. I appreciate that they still came to watch me play.”
King is a 3-point shooter — she shot 37.3 percent from 3-point range last season when she averaged 20.6 points per game. She said the UK coaches complimented her on her shooting and the way she’s worked on getting her shot off faster. King joked it helped that they were at games where she always seemed to shoot well.
“I have been working on shooting and scoring off the dribble and I know I need to implement that more into my game,” she said. “Just things like better ballhandling and change of direction. It’s a lot tougher in EYBL to score and will be even tougher in college. A change of direction is something they want me to use and improve.”
King’s summer play basically ended when she sprained her ankle in late July. She sat out all but the last game of her summer season — “I was not going to miss my last game with Kentucky Premier,” she said — and then took the longest break she ever has from basketball when she took three weeks off before getting back in the gym to shoot.
“They (doctors) still just think it is an ankle sprain. It’s still a little sore and I have a little stuff still going on with it,” she said. “If it is not completely healed by the time our season starts, they are afraid it might be a pulled ligament but for now they think it’s going to be fine. I’m still not doing a lot of cutting on the ankle to give it as much rest as possible. But I just can’t let it keep limiting me.”
King likes to expand her horizons. She took second place in the state in the Future Business Leaders of America hospitality management competition with Lincoln classmates Grace Muse and Raelyn Amon in the spring. The trio had to come up with scenarios involving hotel hospitality and management. King is president of FBLA this year and plans to enter the contest again.
Next week she’s competing in the Lincoln County Distinguished Young Woman contest. Her sister, Katie, won the crown in 2016. King wasn’t sure exactly what to expect but admits she’s liked everything about the event that started with practice in early August.
“I bug Katie about it all the time asking her questions about what I can do, what will make me better. I am very competitive like that,” King said. “We’ve practiced twice a week for about a month and it has been a ball.”
Her talent fits her future athletic career — she’s doing a basketball dribbling/dance to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and “I Got a Feeling’” by Katie Perry.
“I have no musical ability. None. I can’t sing a lick,” King said. “I just decided to do what I can and me and mom came up with this routine, so that’s what I am going with. It’s dribbling and doing tricks to music. I’ve had to practice a lot. Some moves are not that hard, but I have no rhythm. I am also doing some behind the back things I am not naturally good at. It’s been hard but I am glad this is what I chose to do and what has made it even better is that it gave me something to stay busy with when I was taking time off from basketball.”