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    Then & Now: Rich King

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    Then & Now: Rich King

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    (Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)

    kingpage.jpgRich 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

    shots.

    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

    present.

    HHC: Thanks for joining us Rich, its nice to have you on

    HHC.

    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

    basketball program.

    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

    successful season.

    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

    Smith, etc.

    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

    individual?

    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

    says?

    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

    Asset Management.

    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?

    RK: Absolutely

    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

    reading more interviews with other past teammates.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

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