Five-star forward V.J. King, Rivals' No. 11-ranked prospect in the 2016 class, committed to the Louisville Cardinals on Friday. Rick Pitino and Louisville beat out programs like Arizona and Connecticut for the highly-touted prospect.
Louisville has yet to debut its 2015 recruiting class, but it would be hard to blame Cardinals fans for looking ahead to the talent the program will bring in the following season. On Friday, V.J. King announced he has committed to Louisville. "Words cannot express the feeling," King wrote in an Instagram post revealing his decision, which featured an image of him wearing a red Cardinals cap. "All the glory and praise goes to the main upstairs. This is only the beginning."
King drew scholarship offers from some of the nation’s top programs, but he narrowed his of schools to five—Kentucky*, Louisville, Arizona, Connecticut and Virginia—at the end of April. The next month, he took official visits to Louisville and UConn, which recently landed its first commitment in the class of 2016, power forward Mamadou Diarra. Instead of growing the Huskies’ 2016 class, however, King became the first addition to Louisville’s.
Cardinals assistant Kenny Johnson’s relationship with King factored heavily into his decision, according to King. Last July, a few months after the Cardinals reportedly offered extended King a scholarship, he transferred from St. Vincent-St. Mary (Ohio) High, LeBron James’s alma mater, to Paul VI Catholic (Va.) High. Johnson served as an assistant at Paul VI and also worked with King’s grassroots team, Washington D.C.-based Team Takeover.
“I talk to Kenny almost everyday,” King told Scout.com. “Out of everybody he was on me the hardest. We talked the most and most of the time it wasn’t about basketball. I formed a really good relationship with him and I can really trust him. He was one of the driving forces in this commitment.”
Rivals.com rates King the No. 11 player in the class of 2016. The 6’7’’, 190-pound wing averaged 18.5 points last season with Paul VI, a member of the rigorous Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, and has posted per-game averages of 14.2 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 49.4% from the field in 14 games with Team Takeover on the Elite Youth Basketball League circuit this year.
King is highly coveted because of his length and scoring prowess. “First and foremost, King is a natural scorer,” Rivals.com national analyst Eric Bossi wrote about King. “With great wing size, King is a smooth perimeter athlete who can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. While he has the size to finish around the rim, King's single biggest weapon is an absolutely deadly pull-up jump shot.”
King, the No. 11 prospect in Rivals.com’s rankings, is Louisville's highest-ranked commitment since power power forward Samardo Samuels in 2008 (9). Though King won’t be eligible until the 2016-17 season, he could help offset the departure of 6’6’’ guard Damion Lee, a graduate transfer from Drexel who finished fourth in the country in scoring last season. Before King arrives, however, Louisville will welcome in a highly-regarded 2015 class.
The group is headlined by shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, the No. 31 player in the country, according to Rivals.com, and also features four-star wing Deng Adel and four-star power forward Raymond Spalding. Whoever else Louisville adds to round out its 2016 class, the wave of talent joining the Cardinals over the next two seasons provides optimism that the program can keep pace with fellow ACC members Virginia, North Carolina and Duke, among others, in the coming years.
*CBS Sports reported on Friday that Kentucky never offered King a scholarship.