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Bernard King: Mr. Basketball

BERNARD KING
1999 Mr. Basketball


By NAKIA HOGAN
Written for the LSWA

At the age of eight his parents were told they were wasting their time by bringing him to basketball camps. Bernard King was not on the same level with others kids in his age group.

He didn't dribble, shoot or pass the basketball the way the others did. No, King was simply much better.

That trend has continued throughout King's career for reigning Class B champion Gibsland-Coleman.

King's career now ends with another crowning honor. The 6-foot-4 Texas A&M signee was voted Louisiana's Farm Bureau/Mr. Basketball by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. Derrick Zimmerman of Wossman was the runner-up in the voting.

Camp organizers with Louisiana Tech and the Dallas Mavericks told Victor and Vernita King their son could better hone his skills by playing AAU basketball when he was young. That advice paid big dividends.

This season King led Gibsland to the Class B state title, its first since the Bulldogs won back-to-back crowns in 1983 and '84. He averaged 28 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds per game.

In his four-year career at Gibsland, King scored 4,018 points, grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds and dished out 1,348 assists. He also led the Bulldogs to a 143-34 record. King also started as an eighth-grader, but statistics on that season were not kept.

Given the rest of the family history, King's success makes since. His father, Victor, played at Louisiana Tech and professionally in both the NBA and Europe. At one time, Victor King, was a teammate of Magic Johnson with the Lakers.

"Ever since Bernard was big enough to walk, Victor always had Bernard in the gym with him," Vernita said. "I knew from day one that he would be a good basketball player because he has an inborn insight into the game that is not natural. He has something that is God given."As a 14-year-old, King played on a 17-year-old AAU that won a national title. Mike Theus, the coach of Shreveport-Bossier Select AAU team, said King is a gifted player on the court with talents that are not matched by many other players.

"In the (AAU) state playoffs when he was 14, he made six 3-pointers in one game," Theus said. "Nobody could believe he was only 14 because there was some talent on the court. But he stood out. "He is capable of doing so many things. He can shoot, pass, rebound and defend. And he does all those things well. But what amazes me the most is his passing. Bernard has NBA passing skills right now. I don't know if the other parts of his game are ready for the NBA, but his passing is."Theus got no argument from Epps coach David Patrick, whose team Gibsland lost to Gibsland in the Class B final. Patrick compared King to one of the NBA's top 50 players.

"On the next level what he is going to be great at doing is passing," Patrick said. "He reminds me a lot of Scottie Pippen. I had some dealings with Scottie. And he is kind of similar."While Gibsland coach Oscar Williams did not compare King to an NBA star, he did say his star player made coaching easier. With King running the show, Williams could sit back and enjoy the game.

What's more, King sports a 3.8 grade point average in the classroom and is well-liked by his peers. And before some games, the whole team would have a sleepover at the King home.

"He's probably one of the best players anyone has seen on and off the court," Williams said. "He's a team leader. He led this team. They played around him. Bernard can take over a game, but he wants to get everybody involved. He can run this thing (the team) better than I can. I can sit back and cross my legs."King takes such compliments in stride.

"I am a team player," King said. "I guess you can call me the coach on the floor. But it was really fun. I couldn't have asked for anything better."Now that the season has concluded, King said he will continue to improve his game. He wants to continue to get better. He wants to have that same unexplainable feeling of winning a championship on the collegiate level as he had on the high school and AAU levels.

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