Paul King nearly gave it all up.
Less than a year after earning First-Team All-Parish honors, the Ouachita grad joined Bossier Parish Community College in anticipation of becoming the school’s top offensive producer. But tragedy struck, and it nearly took King's athletic career.
Less than a month away from beginning his collegiate career, King was notified his former teammate and lifelong best friend Reginald Hill Jr. was shot and taken to a local hospital.
“I was in shock,” King said.
King’s support group at Bossier Parish sat with King at the hospital and told him to take as much time off as he needed. After Hill succumbed to his injuries, King was ready to hang it up. He felt this massive void in his life, and basketball wouldn't fill it.
“I didn’t feel like playing anymore,” King said. “I lost my best friend. I didn’t practice. I stayed in my apartment. I never lost somebody that close to me, somebody I’ve been with since I was a little baby. I didn’t eat for like a week.”
King couldn’t get Hill off of his mind, and that’s what ultimately led him back to the court. In King’s mind, Hill would have never wanted King to walk away from the sport they grew up playing together, so he rejoined the team and got to work.
That week off, however, cost him an opportunity to start. So King's production was limited out of the gate.
Little by little, King started gaining more playing time over the season, and with each outing, King turned in bigger performances.
“It always felt like I was playing in The Madhouse, especially when I got going,” King said. “Coach (Jeremy) Madison told me at Ouachita that if I was going to be the best player, I was going to have to guard the best player. I did that, and I was playing against tough players, whoever was trying to make a name for themselves.”
Through a 20-11 Cavalier campaign, King averaged 10.6 points per game with a 42.6 field goal percentage. He also hit 37 percent of his 3-pointers to go along with 3.4 assists and 2.6 rebounds per contests.
Double-digit scoring figures were few and far between in the early goings, but that changed dramatically down the stretch.
King broke out with a 21-point performance against Paris Junior College on Jan. 18 and threw up double-digit scoring figures three more times over the next month. But toward the end of February, King went on a run that made every sports writer in the state take notice.
King ripped off 31 points against Trinity Valley Community College, followed by a 26-point outing against Panola College before scoring 40 points against Creating Young Minds Academy. He finished the season with a 26-point effort against Tyler Junior College and a 25-point performance against Coastal Bend College.
King’s offensive explosion down the stretch earned himself back-to-back men's college basketball Player-of-the-Week honors by the Louisiana Sports Writer's Association.
“I thought he really came on late,” Madison said. “He didn’t get a lot of playing time at the start, and I think that might’ve frustrated him a bit. But he kept working and started turning in those 30-point performances.”
King’s late run earned himself an invite to the 2020 All-American JUCO Showcase Invitational, which features some of the best rising sophomores in the country. The two-day event is still set for Aug. 15-16 in Atlanta. King doesn’t know who he will play with when he gets there, but there’s a possibility he’ll be matched up with former and current teammate Willie LaPoole, who also received an invite to the showcase event.
“Hopefully those guys will do a great job and get more opportunities coming there way,” Madison said.
Surprisingly, after garnering some interest from other colleges, King decided to return to Bossier Parish Community College for another season and continue to hit the books hard.
“I want to get my grades as high as I can get them,” King said. “I would love to play in the NBA. And if that didn’t work out, I would like to play overseas. But if ball isn’t it, I would like to be a pharmacist. So I’m already thinking about my education.”
King might've had second thoughts about his basketball career after he lost his best friend, but now he's on a mission to reach new heights for more than just himself. As he put it, King is "locked in" on his basketball future.