The big stage isn’t for everyone, but Elias King invites it, achieving within his own realm of calm.
The Jesuit High School senior forward goes about his basketball business quietly, without bravado. King can dominate a game without dominating the ball, his 6-foot-9 frame filling the lane and his production filling the stat sheet. He is fundamentally sound – boxing out, screens, chest passes – and he can compete with above-the-rim flair.
King is averaging 21.6 points and 9.2 rebounds for a Marauders program that looms as a dark horse in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs that start Wednesday. Jesuit hosts Lincoln of Stockton, which features 6-8 forward Andre Kelly, a Cal commit.
King knows he has to be at his best to extend a season of promise. Handling pressure, his father Kris King said, is what life is all about.
Kris King was The Bee’s Player of the Year in 1987 at Del Campo. He played quarterback at Pacific and, for a spell, earned a living competing in Finland.
But his kid is better, he says, and the bright lights don’t bother him either.
“Everyone likes The Jackson 5, and everyone wants to be Michael Jackson until they get on that big stage,” Kris King said with a laugh. “But not everyone can be out front.”
Elias King elevated to the forefront at Christian Brothers, but wanted to continue a family tradition at Jesuit.
His brother, Isiah, played there in 2013, and his uncle – Kris’ brother – sparkled during the Marauders’ heyday when they won region’s first Northern California Division I championships, in 1993 and ’94.
But Kris King wanted his son to blaze his own path. During three seasons at Christian Brothers, Elias King averaged 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. For his season year, his parents allowed him to transfer to Jesuit, aware of the scrutiny that would follow. Per CIF transfer rules, King had to sit out the season’s first 30 days, which was nine games.
“Hardest thing for me to do,” King said after practice Monday. “I couldn’t even dress for the games. All I could do was support the guys and hand them water. I’m glad to be playing.”
King’s poise matches his skill set.
Said Jesuit coach Jon Rotz, “He can do a lot of things, and nothing seems to affect him. The guys knew Elias over the years, and they did a great job of welcoming him in and accepting him.”
But Jesuit isn’t a one-man gang. King is flanked by shooters Chris Simpson and Jake Virga and guards Branden Rutherford, Isa Silva and Dominic Wall.
‘People wanted to see Elias fail’
When you’re the father of a player on the recruiting radar, you hear things, and not all of it kind.
Kris King doesn’t sit amongst other parents during games. He finds a place of solitude in the stands.
“Left corner, every time,” said Elias King of his dad. His mother, Veronica, sits anxiously in the crowd, too.
“People wanted to see Elias fail at Jesuit, fall flat on his face,” Kris King said. “The beauty of it is, Elias can control that: play hard, be your best. Not everyone is with you, and that’s life.”
Said King, “My dad teaches me a lot about basketball but even more about life. I appreciate him.”
One lesson is patience. King has not committed to a college. He expects to by late spring.
“There’s no rush. I’m looking for the best fit,” said King, who aspires to write movie scripts. “I’ll visit UC Santa Barbara, Villanova, Georgetown, USC. I just want to get better and better.”
King is still growing into his 195-pound frame. He gulps down milkshakes throughout the day – “We’re talking gallons and gallons of ice cream here,” Kris King said.
Elias King takes this gig seriously. His parents have to hide the ball to keep him from shooting on off-days, reminding that it’s OK to throttle down.
“It’s hard not to play,” he said.
‘I’m not raising an NBA player’
Kris King has coached his son since kindergarten, including on the AAU circuit in recent years. He reminds his sons the path to the highest levels of sports is difficult, even if it is familiar to his family.
He had a tryout with the Los Angeles Rams in 1994, worked in the Kings’ basketball operations and scouting departments in the late 1990s and also tried his hand as an agent.
Kris King’s father, Henry King, was a third-round pick of the New York Jets as a defensive back in 1967 and later played in the CFL. Kris King’s godfather was Milt Jackson, a star at Grant High who was an assistant coach for 20 years in the NFL.
“I love my son and want the best for him, but I’m not raising an NBA player,” Kris King added. “I’m trying to raise a good, solid young man who enjoys life. I don’t want to ruin him with pressure. He puts enough of it on himself.”
Here’s self-induced pressure: “I want to be the best basketball player to ever come out of Jesuit,” Elias King said. “I know winning playoff games and winning championships will help.”