Credit: NBA Academy
Cairns Taipans rookie Mojave King will be one of two home-grown Next Stars in the upcoming NBL season - the other is Josh Giddey of the Adelaide 36ers. King, a Queensland product, passed on several NCAA Division I offers to join the NBL. He has made a name for himself in the past year with standout performances for the Queensland state team and NBA Global Academy. The 17 year old is an explosive shooting guard known primarily for his three-point shooting, off-hand finishing ability and athleticism.
Note: The NBA Global Academy is located within Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
Kiwi-born King has dual citizenship with New Zealand and the United States, but wants to play for Australia. He has primarily been based in Queensland since moving to Mackay in 2007, and hopes to obtain Australian citizenship. "As far as my Australian citizenship is going, I’m still just working through the process and [I'm] still not exactly sure when I’m actually going to have it," King told The Pick and Roll.
The NBA hopeful was a highly-recruited college basketball prospect, before making the decision to turn pro. He visited Arizona and Baylor in October of last year, and confirmed that there wasn't one college in particular, but rather several that came close. "There was no one clear front runner, but around five or so schools that I was very interested in and planned on taking visits to, before I made my decision to go pro. But [I] only visited Arizona and Baylor before that."
ESPN's Jonathan Givony previously ranked King 31st in his first NBA mock draft for 2021. The 6'5 shooting guard may only be in the NBL for one season, if he can impress NBA scouts and earn draft selection. "Yes, the 2021 NBA draft is a goal of mine right now," King said. But why Cairns? the 17 year old's decision apparently had little to do with playing time. He was drawn to the the Taipans organisation and saw an opportunity for development.
"The Taipans stood out to me because they’ve got a great coach running a great program, which is something that I wanted to be a part of. I don’t think the decision was made just over playing time because I feel as though wherever you go, you have to earn that and it's gonna be tough. But I’m looking forward to it," King shared.
The Queenslander also revealed that he was invited to play for the World Select team at the Nike Hoop Summit. Unfortunately the Hoop Summit was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, meaning the full World Select team was never revealed. King was one of a select few that received an early invite; South Sudanese-Australian prospect Makur Maker was another. At just 17 years of age, King would have been one of the younger players in the field. He has been denied an opportunity to showcase his talent on a big stage, but would have good odds on receiving another invite next year.
Assuming he receives Australian citizenship in time, King would be eligible to represent Australia at the 2021 FIBA Under-19 Basketball World Cup. He could be part of an exciting age group that includes prospects such as Josh Giddey, Tamuri Wigness and Blake Jones. There's one catch however - the tournament could clash with the NBA 2021 draft and subsequent commitments.
In the past, prospects such as Ben Simmons and Josh Green have skipped the Under-19 World Cup due to a busy schedule. It's an impossible commitment for King to make at this stage, but he is keen to wear the green and gold.
"I would 100% want to represent my country if I was given that opportunity. If it were to clash with the draft then that’s a decision I would have to make a bit closer to the time," he said.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the basketball world to a standstill, but King has done his best to stay occupied. The Taipans recruit spent some time training in Los Angeles, where he had little trouble getting shots up. Now back in his native Brisbane, this has proven to be more of a challenge, but the Taipans rookie remains undeterred in his approach to training.
"I was in LA for a while and there I was still able to get shots up. But now, [that] I’m back in Brisbane so right now, I don’t have a court that I can use. But I’m still staying active and doing other things to stay sharp."