Senior Writer

King's fall lesson to those who label high school stars


The love affair with Taylor King as a prospect never made much sense to me.

I'm not writing that to pile on.

Taylor King seems to miss way more shots than he makes. (Getty Images)  
Taylor King seems to miss way more shots than he makes. (Getty Images)  
It's just that the news that King's career at Villanova is over after just one season -- this after he previously lasted just one season at Duke -- reminded me of how I felt about King while watching him during the summer of 2006, specifically that I never understood why Duke took a commitment from the 6-foot-7 forward or how he was on track to be a McDonald's All-American. I saw King play many times that July because he was a starter on a California-based team that also featured Brandon Jennings, Daniel Hackett, Renardo Sidney and Kevin Love. The team, coached by Pat Barrett, was obviously awesome, but I never saw King be anything more than ordinary. He was a "shooter" who seemed to always miss way more shots than he made. Way I figured, he'd spend a year at Duke on the bench, then transfer back west to a smaller school better-suited for his talent level.

I was half-right.

King did spend a year on the bench at Duke and decide to transfer out of Mike Krzyzewski's program. But rather than move back west to a lower-level school, King transferred further east to another high-major program. He proved to be a good (not great) shooter and role player at Villanova, but now he's no longer a member of the Wildcats. The school described King's removal from the team as voluntary, but you tell me the last time a healthy player who averaged 19 minutes a game up and quit hoops in the final week of June?

Things just don't work that way.

Regardless, King's career has fizzled at the high-major level.

Twice now.

But that it hardly mattered to Duke and should hardly matter to Villanova suggests what I figured all along is true -- that Taylor King is a nice player but not quite as nice as he's forever been described. His reputation has long exceeded his value, and I can't help but wonder whether things would've gone differently -- and been much easier -- if he'd never been placed on a stage where he so clearly didn't belong.

Honestly, it's the same way I felt about Greg Paulus.

I loved Greg Paulus.

(I still love Greg Paulus.)

But I always believed the abuse Paulus took in four years at Duke could be directly attributed to how he was incorrectly labeled out of high school. Like King, Paulus was a McDonald's All-American and more heralded than Mario Chalmers, Darren Collison and every other point guard in the Class of 2005 despite lacking the physical tools most top-ranked point guards possess. Paulus was never going to match the hype because he wasn't equipped to match the hype, wasn't made to be the starting point guard at Duke, wasn't built to be a future NBA player even though every other point guard has ever ranked No. 1 -- Raymond Felton in 2002, Chris Paul in 2003, Shaun Livingston in 2004, Ty Lawson in 2006, O.J. Mayo in 2007, Brandon Jennings in 2008 and John Wall in 2009 -- has left college early (or skipped college altogether) and played in the NBA.

Simply put, Paulus was setup to fall short.

It's a testament to his character that he endured the tough times.

King apparently isn't made of the same stuff.

So here we are, his career at his second college in three years now done.

The lesson?

What I hope is that it teaches the folks handing out cherished things like invitations to the McDonald's All-American game to take their jobs more seriously. Bestowing that kind of honor on an obviously inferior talent doesn't do anybody any favors. It's almost certainly going to make the committee look stupid in due time, and in the meantime it'll add expectations and eyeballs to a prospect whose more likely to be just another guy than the guy at a high-major university.

That's Taylor King.

He was always going to be just another guy in college.

It would've been better for everybody had we viewed him that way from the start.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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