V.J. King

V.J. King plays defense in his final regular-season game at Louisville, a loss at eventual national champion Virginia.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- V.J. King's time at Louisville is drawing to a close,  Cardinals' coach Chris Mack told ESPN 680, and it deserved a better end.

If life were fair, his time in Louisville would've ended with King playing his best basketball, living up to the promise he showed before his arrival and leading the team as its captain. Instead, he never really got it going, and now he’ll apparently depart over the offseason looking for a new start.

He started just five games as a junior and averaged fewer than 15 minutes per game. Mack said he wasn't asked to leave, but just wants a new start. That's understandable.

It should be said, Louisville fans always wanted better for King. Nobody had to be reminded how King, a McDonald's All-American out of high school, honored his commitment to the program after the ugly sex-for-recruits scandal broke and was raging on the television screens and sports pages of the nation.

King was a player Rick Pitino could point to, someone fans could look forward to, as reason for hope. By all accounts, he was nothing but a model citizen from the time he got to campus, well-liked by all of his various coaches and teammates, as well as by others within the university administration.

When his name surfaced in the college basketball corruption scandal, with since-convicted former agent Christian Dawkins saying he was going to "check on V.J." during a trip to Louisville, it raised questions and eyebrows. But Louisville pronounced his name clear, and Mack was hoping he'd be a centerpiece this season, even took him to ACC Media Day.

But King never really reached the heights anyone at Louisville hoped he would. Instead, King's junior season began with the Dawkins controversy and never seemed to get off the ground. By the time conference season rolled around, his playing time had withered away.

He saw it come back a bit at the end of the season, but his prospects for next season were iffy.

So, when he declared for the NBA Draft just over two weeks ago, it was met with some smirking and little concern by Louisville fans. But it also was a signal that, one way or the other, King was on the market.

Guys who average 3.9 points and three rebounds a game aren't in high demand at the professional level. But King has the raw talent and the attitude to be a good player.

Why he hasn't been at Louisville, I'm not sure. Who knows what goes into a guy's head? Maybe the early-season questions about Dawkins were enough to throw him off, or maybe it was something else. I don't know what events transpired to get him to Louisville, or to compel him to stay, but whatever it was, he deserves a chance at a start somewhere else, where the closet is free of skeletons, real or imagined.

Regardless, I admired how King handled himself, particularly in the midst of his struggles on the court. By all accounts, he didn't turn sour in the locker room or dog it in practice. He remained a good teammate. And, when he spoke with the media late in the season, he held his head up and talked about his crisis of confidence. That's not easy to do. He didn't make excuses. He didn't get defensive.

"It's hard to describe how good of a kid he is," Mack said during the season. ". . . I cannot say enough about his character. That's not lip service. He never hangs his head. Never talks about these coaches behind their backs, never talks about a teammate. He was raised tremendously."

King caught some flack as he struggled on the court. You'd hear fans or people in the media call him out from time to time. You'd also hear a lot of fans come to his defense.

And, I suspect, wherever King winds up, he'll retain a pretty good fan base in the city of Louisville rooting for him. He should. If any guy deserves to have a second chance turn out right, he's one of them.

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