King exits throne 'with a smile'
When it was announced Paris Junior College standout Desmond King would be taking his basketball to A&M-Commerce in Fall 2010, ears were perked on most of the local sports experts. The fact that this leader of a junior college championship team and Division I target – specifically of Louisiana State – would be joining Coach Sam Walker and his setup gave Lions fans every reason to be excited.
Now, those same fans must prepare to say goodbye, as King ends his senior year with full knowledge that he did not get to where he is alone.
"It's just the passion I have for it," King said about basketball. "When you go out and play, it just makes you feel like nothing else matters. When you see the fans, your supporters, the teammates that you've been with all year and the people that you love, it's just a passion that you will never forget. It just took me to it."
King grew up in Alexandria, La., where he, like most boys in junior high, took part in all the major sports: football, baseball and basketball. He said it was his size that took him to the game early on, along with the potential people saw in him.
"As I went on from seventh to eighth grade, I was bigger than most kids," he said. "My high school was right across the street from my junior high, and the coach came and talked to me, saying ‘I think you should come play basketball for me. You're really good.' I just got better and better each year."
At Peabody High School, King became a star player, leading the team to a state title as a junior and MVP of the tournament. This grabbed the attention of local colleges, including LSU where King was planning to go. Other factors brought him to Northeast Texas.
"My LSU coach knew Coach [Ross] Hodge, who was at Paris at the time," King said. "I went to Paris thinking I would go back to LSU in a couple of years."
While playing in Paris, King said he learned more than simply how to play in the college game.
"I didn't know much about college basketball at the time," he said. "Coach Hodge was a great coach and great mentor. He kind of sat me down, told me about the ins and outs of college basketball and how to do things the right way. That's what turned me from a boy into a man. I still talk to him to this day and thank him every time. I tell him how much I appreciate what he's done for me."
The two years at PJC presented two regional championship games and two all-region honors for King. Hodge's connections to A&M-Commerce – as a player and coach under current Head Coach Walker – lead to King becoming a Lion instead of attending Lone Star Conference powerhouse Tarleton State, who were also courting him.
It did not take long for King to be a success. He was named LSC North Division Newcomer of the Year, lead the team with 16.1 points per game and 7 rebounds per game.
"When practice started, I started to get in a groove and fit in with the team," King said. "Coach Walker sat me down and said ‘You have a big role to play with this team.' So, that brought me out."
In addition, King has been handling a job at the Morris Recreation Center and a family, with his son Desmond King, Jr. now in his life. This would be difficult for any student to manage, and King acknowledges it does get hard at times; however, he also said he feels fortunate to have someone there with him.
"I have a great family and a great helper in Jerrisa Patt, my baby's mother," he said. "She's a key to my success. Without her, I don't think anything would be possible right now or where I would be at in this stage. This is becoming a man, this is what I have to do. I have to work at the rec center to pay bills, I have to play basketball to be in college. It's just the way a hard life is going to be."
Now in his last season, King has a lot to think about in regards to the future. He is currently pursuing a career in law enforcement, which he said he has dreamed of since he watched his uncle do it as a kid. But, he also has some offers for a potential career in basketball. Right now, King said he is keeping everything in a decent perspective.
"My body is getting a little weary," he said. "If I get the offers – which I did get a couple of calls from places I can't really name right now – and I feel comfortable with it, I'll take it. Right now, I'm just trying to start a career in law enforcement."
The season has not been the best for the Lions, and King said it hurts him to see such a talented team with such great chemistry on and off the court struggle so much. With the Lions LSC tournament hopes in the balance, he said he just wants to finish this season with one thing: contentment.
"It motivates me more to go out of this season with a smile on my face, no matter what the record is. I know this year wasn't the best in my career, but it makes it a whole lot better if I go out with a smile on my face saying me, Coach Walker, Labree Sledge and Brad Hambrick put our best foot forward in trying to make the best out of this season as we could."
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