Then & Now: Rich King
Compiled By Dave Brandon
(Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)
Rich King, the tallest player in Nebraska history at
7'2", was a four year letter winner at Nebraska from
1988-1991. While at Nebraska, King finished among the
leader in many Nebraska career records, as he is the
Huskers ninth all-time leading scorer with 1,475 points,
as well as in the top ten in career rebounds and blocked
The former honorable mention All-American, NBA player,
and member of the Nebraska basketball hall of fame
recently sat down with HHC, to reflect on the past and
HHC: Thanks for joining us Rich, its nice to have you on
RK: Thank you for having me and thanks for creating this
website. I'm as big a Nebraska football fan as anyone,
but it's great to have something dedicated to the
HHC: In your four years at Nebraska, you could say that
the team performed with more ups and downs than a
roller-coaster. Your first year, ('87-'88) you finished
13-18, before jumping to 17-16 in '88-'89. At that
point, you had to believe that '89-'90 could be the year
that Nebraska made its second career NCAA tournament
appearance. However, you went back to 10-18.
Obviously your senior season would see a 26-8 record,
but talk to us a little bit about the three years before
that - was it a process of taking a step back to move
forward, or was there a lot of underachievement?
RK: I don't think it was a case of underachieving. My
freshman year, we had a a very young team overall with a
mix of veterans. We were all thrown together and had
never played with each other before. We had decent
talent, but because we didn't really know each other as
players, we were very inconsistent. My sophomore year,
we started to come together and play as a team. We
bought into the system and we had a pretty solid year.
Up to this point, we were on a nice, linear path towards
our goal being one of the top teams in the Big 8 (I'm
dating myself) and an NCAA Tournament team.
My junior year, as you mentioned, should have seen the
continuation of that progression. However, during the
preceding summer, Beau Reid injured his knee causing him
to miss most of the 89-90 season. That really hurt us,
both on the court and off. Beau brought so many things
to the team with his skills and ability, but maybe even
more importantly, he brought so many intangibles like
leadership, toughness, intelligence, etc. We still
should have been better than 10-18, but if Beau hadn't
been hurt, I have no doubt we would've had a very
My senior year really was the culmination of a lot of
things. We finally had a nucleus of guys who had played
together in the same system for 4 years. The coaching
staff had done a great job with recruiting and we had a
great mix of young, talented players coming in behind
us. We had talent all the way down the bench. There
wasn't much of a drop off, if any, from the starters to
the bench. We had a basketball PROGRAM. At that point in
time, I really felt like we had built a program that
would be a regular NCAA tournament team.
HHC: Before your senior season in '90-'91, in which you
would ultimately become an honorable-mention
All-American, you gained eighteen pounds over the
summer. How much did this help you as a player, and who
were some of the other centers you played against in the
Big 8 who drove you to improve your strength?
RK: I did gain weight that year, and there's no doubt
that some of it was gained through the weight program
and a concerted effort to get bigger and stronger. But
some of it was just a result of getting older. I had
always been a late bloomer and was still maturing
physically. I'm not even sure if I was shaving yet.
However, I definitely hit the weights hard that summer
too. There were a lot of great centers in the Big 8 at
the time, and they were all big, strong guys. Guys like
Victor Alexander, Shaun Vandiver, Byron Houston, Doug
HHC: Speaking of other players and teams you played
against, tell us a couple stories about tough road enviornments. Which fans stick out, and any memorable
stories involving the classic 'hecklers?'
RK: Look up classic hecklers in the dictionary and
you'll see, "The Antlers." The Missouri students who
called themselves the Antlers were far and away the
worst, which I guess makes them the best, as far as
hecklers go. Oklahoma St.'s fans were pretty rough
too...very vocal. I can't remember any good
stories...I'm sure I've blocked them out.
HHC: While we're on the process of telling stories, we
ask every player who played for Danny Nee this question
- can you give us a classic Danny Nee story or two?
RK: Hmm, I may have blocked those out too. I remember
one year, we were playing at Ohio St. and were big
underdogs. I don't think anyone expected us to do
anything except get blown out. However, we were hanging
with them pretty good throughout the first half.
Right at the end of the half, if I remember correctly,
they scored a basket, got a steal, and then hit a lucky
three pointer at the buzzer. So, I think we were only
down 7 or so at half. Not good, but not horrible either.
So we get in the locker room and Coach Nee starts
talking to us, and he doesn't seem that mad. I think he
even said something about how we were playing them tough
and hanging in there. But then he starts to work himself
up and gets madder and madder. He got about as animated
as I'd ever seen him and threw a chair and then punched
the chalkboard. It really wasn't a big deal, every coach
has those moments. He may have even done it on purpose
thinking it might fire us up. The funny part is that I
was the last player out of the locker room and he's
holding his hand and I can tell he hurt it and he looks
at me with a sheepish grin and says, "I probably
shouldn't have done that. I think I broke my hand."
HHC: Nee has more colors than Picasso! (laughs) Anyway,
before we talk about your NBA career, tell us what
stands out most about your time at Nebraska. What was
your favorite game as a team, and favorite as an
RK: To be honest, there are a lot of games I remember
and not necessarily one that really stands out. Beating
Kansas at home, which we always did back then...those
I'll always remember. Beating Oklahoma on the road our
senior year. Going down there and knowing that we were
going to beat them is what I remember. Beating them in
the Big 8 Tournament when Keith Moody hit an amazing
3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to OT. Like I
said, lot of good memories.
HHC: You were the first ever first-round draft pick from
Nebraska, as Seattle drafted you with the #14 pick in
the NBA Draft. Tell us about draft day - where did you
spend it, how did you feel throughout the day, and did
you have any idea you'd end up with the Sonics?
RK: I was in New York for the draft with my mom. The NBA
took those of us there for the draft around New York
that day doing sightseeing things. The night before the
draft they took us to a Broadway play. It was great. I
was nervous throughout the day. It was hard because it's
a situation that is so out of your control at that
point. My agent would call me about every 10 minutes
with the latest rumors on which team was going to take
who and what that meant for me
I really didn't expect to end up with the Sonics. I had
gone out to Seattle and worked out for them, but they
were picking 14th and there were 3 teams in front of
them who had shown a great deal of interest: New York,
Orlando, and Indiana. Indiana was picking 13th and my
agent really thought they would take me if I was still
on the board.
HHC: What was your first season in the NBA like? Was it
as much of a grind and tough on the body as everyone
RK: The first season was a blur. Everything is so
different from college. You're suddenly flying all over
the country and playing in all the biggest arenas
against guys you've watched on TV for years. You have to
get used to living in a new city; find a place to live,
find your way around, make new friends, etc. It was just
a crazy year and it just flew by.
HHC: You had a lot of injury problems once in the NBA,
that never enabled you to come close to your NBA
potential. First, is that a fair statement? Second, how
hard was it on you watching from the sidelines with the
passion you have for the game?
RK: Yes, that's certainly a fair statement. My rookie
year is the only year in the NBA that I was healthy. I
had a stress fracture in my foot at the beginning of my
2nd year that kept me out the entire season. I needed
two screws in my foot and had to be in a walking cast
for about 6 months. I really think that injury started a
chain reaction throughout my body. I ended up having 3
knee surgeries, back surgery and two foot surgeries. I
had never been hurt prior to that first injury. I don't
think I ever missed a game at Nebraska due to injury.
Needless to say, it was very tough on me. One of the
toughest things is that by not being out on the floor
with your teammates during practices and games, you
start to lose touch and not feel as much a part of the
team. Also, as you mentioned, I never really got to see
how far I could go at the next level. I really thought
I'd still be playing in the NBA until I was close to 40.
HHC: Before we catch up with you today, tell us how many
former teammates from both college and the NBA you still
keep in touch with. Also, do you still follow the
Huskers & Sonics?
RK: I still keep in touch with quite a few college and
pro teammates. Not all of them, and that's unfortunate.
I'd love to know where some of the guys are. I loved
reading your interview with Chris Cresswell. We fell out
of touch several years ago and I wasn't sure where he
was living. I plan on tracking him down now that I know.
I think he owes me $5. I still follow the Huskers. The
internet has certainly made that a lot easier now than
it used to be. I also follow the Sonics. I only go to a
couple games a year, but I keep up. They had a great
season this year and were a lot of fun to watch.
HHC: Today, if we look up high enough, what will we find
Rich King doing, both personally and professionally?
RK: I still live in Seattle and have been married for
four years. My wife Lenore and I just had our first
child in April, a beautiful baby boy named Christian.
Professionally, I am a portfolio manager for Oppenheimer
HHC: Like the homecoming queen, we have yet to be denied
- We have set up
[email protected] so that
readers may e-mail you and correspond with you. Would
you be willing to catch up with Husker Nation?
HHC: Sounds good - thanks a lot for your time Rich, and
we hope you are enjoying HHC.
RK: Thanks again for having me. I'm looking forward to