With the regular season ending, Trinity displayed once again the grit of a team clear on its mission. After losing senior guard Jacob King to an injury that sidelined him for nearly half the season, the Shamrocks still remained one of the state’s best teams – ranked No. 2 in Kentucky according to MaxPreps – and have shifted their gears into overdrive now that we’re in tournament time.
“I’m excited with the way that we’re playing right now,” says Head Coach Mike Szabo. “I like what we are doing offensively. We are playing unselfish and really moving the basketball. We’re averaging a high number of assists every game, and the last couple of games, we had over 20 assists. And I like the whole team attitude we have going down the stretch.”
It’s the character and attitude of a team that dug deep within them to find a way to win games early on without their floor general. But for a program filled with talented players, they simply executed their philosophy of “next man up,” while remaining positive and looking forward to Jacob’s return.
In his 14 games back from injury, King has been nothing short of stellar. He says leadership has been important to him, and even when he wasn’t able to be on the court with some of his closest friends, he still carried the leadership mantle, barking at his teammates from the bench with the purpose of getting them in position to succeed.
“It was a learning process for sure,” King says about his injury. “I had to learn how to impact my team in other ways. By not being on the floor, I would yell out different help commands on the bench – those small little things like telling them good job when they came over and really doing all I could on the sidelines, because I didn’t have any impact on what happened on the floor. I wanted to stay involved and not distance myself because that would just hurt myself and the team.”
In his leadership play on the court, King has led through his stats. In 14 games, he’s averaging 11.2 points per game and has had 45 assists, 33 steals and only 13 turnovers, all while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 3-point range, and 90 percent from the free throw line. The numbers have been so impressive, Coach Szabo texted them to Jacob’s future coach – Brent Vernon of Campbellsville University – which stirred a chuckle of excitement at King’s tremendous play.
“Having that production back in the lineup is great and just his overall demeanor, confidence and composure is certainly going to be a great lift as we make a run with this thing,” Szabo adds. “He was hungry to get back, and I was proud of the way he prepared himself to get back. He didn’t take any days off, and he was at practice every day working. So when he came back, the main thing he had to adjust to was at the defensive end. I feel like he is back and playing great, and his attitude has always been super. He’s a great kid and he’s a great teammate. His teammates are right behind him and very helpful and supportive, and he is the same way.”
King’s play on the court has put Trinity in full command for the tournament and in position to achieve their high expectations for the season. King believes the team must lean on its strengths of being unselfish and playing together to reach the ultimate goal of a state crown.
Aside from that, Szabo says the “little things” will be the difference maker as his team plays for a trip to Rupp Arena for a second consecutive year.
“I would call them the toughness plays and the team plays, like taking a charge, saving a ball, getting an extra possession and diving on the floor for a loose ball and sprinting back on defense. We need to have a tremendous team attitude where there is no quitting and you just want to do everything you can to help the team win. The only thing we’re worried about is what is takes to win and concentrate on that every single day in practice moving forward.”
The challenge Szabo charges his players with is the very reason King wanted to become a Shamrock. Now he leads his troops in the home stretch of his high school basketball career, looking to create memories that will last a lifetime.
“Earn your stripes,” he says. “If you don’t put in the work, you can’t expect the results you want. That’s the main thing I learned. If you want something, you have to go get it. It’s not going to be handed to you. If you think it’s going to be handed to you, you’re probably in the wrong place. But that’s why I wanted to come here. I wanted to be challenged, wanted to see how far I could take it, see what would come out of my hard work, and it has been really awesome to see where it has gotten me. And I hope to keep furthering it.” VT