If there has been one regular complaint surrounding Louisville basketball over this current six or seven-year period of sustained success at the highest level, itâ€™s been that UofL hasnâ€™t brought in the type of five-star, one-and-done talent that has come to define the sport as much as anything else. The irony of that being the case, given the off-the-court cloud that has hung over the program since October, is not lost on me, but thatâ€™s a topic for another day.Itâ€™s not that Louisville hasnâ€™t received commitments from elite recruits in recent years; itâ€™s that too often, they havenâ€™t been able to get those commits to make the metamorphosis into signees. Since 2010, Cardinal fans have seen three high-profile recruits pledge their allegiance to Rick Pitino, only to get cold feet before signing their names on the dotted line.
First, there was Rodney Purvis, who was the No. 7 overall player from the class of 2012 when he committed to Louisville in December 2010. He posted pictures of himself in Cardinal gear constantly. He tweeted about how he couldnâ€™t wait to be on campus. And he decommitted from UofL after five months. About two years after Pitino lost Purvis, he landed another five-star in Huntington Prepâ€™s JaQuan Lyle. Lyle reversed course even faster than Purvis, announcing his decommitment after just three months as a Cardinal pledge. The blue-chipper who takes the indecision title, however, is current LSU Tiger Antonio Blakeney. The five-star shooting guard said he had known he was going to Louisville â€œfor two monthsâ€ before committing on last September 4. He decommitted just 11 days later.
With all this being the case, it was thrice bitten, four times terrified for Cardinal fans when another five-star recruit, small forward V.J. King, committed to UofL last summer.
A rangy 6-foot-7 small forward, King originally played his high school ball at St. Vincent-St. Maryâ€™s (the school best-known for producing LeBron James) in Ohio before moving to Virginia two years ago. He averaged 18.5 points per game as a junior last season for Paul VI, one of the strongest private school programs in the Washington D.C. area. He then spent the spring and summer starting for the D.C.-based Team Takeover program on the Nike EYBL AAU circuit.
King has a Montrezl Harrell-esque wingspan and the athleticism to go along with it. Heâ€™s a smooth operator with the ball in his hands and can handle and pass like a two guard. Heâ€™s also a terrific finisher who uses his length to make acrobatic moves around the rim.
On top of all that, King has the same mentality and character that Rick Pitino has spent so much of the past decade preaching about, the type of mentality and character needed to sign with a program despite the whisperings of some of the surrounding sycophants.
â€œA lot of times when you see people decommit, itâ€™s because they get caught up in all the glamour and all the attention,â€ said Glenn Farello, Kingâ€™s coach at Paul VI Catholic High School. â€œVJâ€™s not wired like that at all. This oneâ€™s in the books, folks.â€
King made good on his coachâ€™s promise by signing with UofL on the first day of the early singing period back in November. Despite all the negative attention that had been heaped upon the program since his commitment, King said going back on his word was never an option.
â€œPeople may have questioned, but I never wavered,â€ King said after signing his letter of intent. â€œI believe in the Louisville family.â€
On Sunday, King was named to the East roster for the McDonaldâ€™s All-American Game in March. The distinction made him Louisvilleâ€™s 24th all-time â€œburger boy,â€ and its first since Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan participated in the event back in 2011. On top of that, King has also been invited to participate in the prestigious Jordan Brand Classic game.
Thereâ€™s no way to know how long King will play basketball for Louisville, but the knowledge that heâ€™s bringing both his limitless skill-set and his next level maturity to the Derby City should give Cardinal fans some peace of mind for the future. The era of good feelings will roll on.