Before a minute had been played in this basketball season, there was one face front and center for GW, the only big star left from last year’s Atlantic 10 West champions – junior guard Mike King.
It was his leap on the media guide. His face on the magazines. His athletic body front and center in The Hatchet’s Basketball Preview.
Then came freshman SirValiant Brown, and, suddenly, King was a marketing afterthought.
Then things got worse.
A shoulder injury in the Siena College game Dec. 11 put King out for more than a month, and when he returned Jan. 19, there was a new star in a GW uniform – freshman Chris Monroe. His blossoming into a blockbuster offensive player had made the phrase starting for King inoperable.
Coach Tom Penders compared it to the day Lou Gehrig stepped in for an injured Wally Pip and never stepped out.
Because of his injury, you know – he just got beat out, Penders said. I had no plans of bringing him off the bench, but when he missed all those games, we had a different chemistry.
Chris has earned his position, Bernard (Barrow) has earned his position. Val has earned his. It’s how many minutes you play. Mike’s minutes haven’t really gone down.
And in fact, King’s presence has seemed to be the difference between winning and losing for the Colonials. Without him available the entire game, GW was 2-5. Since his return, the Colonials are 5-3.
We’re a much better team with Mike King, Penders said.
But would GW be `with Mike King’ much longer? began to be the question during and after his absence. The rumor mill started churning with stories that he wanted to transfer, or that the supposed dispute between him and GW’s trainer over the severity of his injury was because King actually wanted to redshirt.
There was no truth to transferring and redshirting, said King, who also calls the controversy that was printed in The Washington Post over his injury a miscommunication.
I heard that, he said of the rumors. All I could do is laugh about it. I started here. I’m gonna finish here.
I don’t think about that stuff, Penders said. He’s never said he wanted to transfer. That’s just the rumor mill. That’s like how people say that Chris and Val don’t get along. That’s ridiculous. They all get along on this team.. Sometimes I wish somebody would get in a fight. I’ve had teams where they fight each other every day.
Brotherly love aside, the assurance that King isn’t going anywhere comes as welcome news for GW, which has in him a superb and experienced sixth man.
Really like being an extra coach on the floor is how King describes his role in the youthful Colonials mix. But he’s more than a coach.
Mike’s role is to play tough defense consistently, Penders said. Just play. There’s no pressure on Mike. He plays best when he’s fearless and lays it on the line, and he’s done a good job since he’s been back.
Penders said that if Monroe had a string of bad performances and King was playing well, it might be a different story. But Monroe’s work ethic so far has ensured that he will continue to capitalize on the opportunity he was given when King went down.
He wasn’t happy not starting, Penders said of Monroe. He wanted to play more than 20 minutes a game. He’s out here after practice shooting an extra hundred jumpers every day. I don’t make him do that.
Some people expected Mike to score 20 points a game, but Mike’s not that kind of player right now.
As long as King’s not the kind of explosive player that can knock someone like Monroe out of the starting spot, Penders and King both think that a sixth man isn’t the worst thing to be.
First guy off the bench, if you take it the right way, it can be a lot of fun, Penders said. The other team doesn’t prepare as hard for you. Every good team I’ve had has always had a great sixth man.
Not starting is nothing but a mental thing, King said. It’s not who starts a game, it’s who finishes it.
o The Colonials game with Virginia Tech is the last as conference rivals. Tech is headed to the Big East next season. GW leads the A-10 series 4-3.
o Starting with Rhode Island Saturday, the Colonials chances in the A-10 West will be decided in the East. In the Colonials’ key final five-game stretch, four of the games are against East opponents. In addition, three of the five are on the road and three of the five are scheduled to be televised on ESPN or ESPN2.