- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
King's academic woes and the way he overcame them are now favored topics, especially when he speaks to youngsters, as he recently did at the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Treatment Center in Tecumseh.
"There are always ways to get into trouble, like killing somebody," King said. "There's always something to do. People are like ants. They see one guy trying to get on top, and they try to pull him down to the bottom of the pile, because that's where they are.
"Now, I have the highest respect for nerds. They realize there's something out there they want, and they're going to do whatever it takes to get their goal. They'll sacrifice parties, they'll sacrifice walking on campus and having people laugh at them because they wear funny clothes and glasses. They'll risk that to get ahead, and they are ahead." King talks for 20 minutes, and it's clear from the attention the kids give him that his remarks hit home.
After a scrimmage between the center's teachers and the visiting Sooners, a girl asked King for the shirt off his back. He gave her the sweat-drenched gray T, and she hugged it lovingly. Would she wash it? "I don't know. Maybe in a couple of weeks," she said.
"Kids are great because they're curious about everything," King says. "You tell them it's raining, and they'll look at you and say, 'Really?' "
In high school King was much the same player he is today—quick, running the floor well, with a nice touch around the basket and a knack for blocking shots—but he weighed only 180 pounds, 50 less than now, and he was a 90-pound weakling when it came to pumping iron. Now he can bench 235. "After I graduated high school, I about sprouted from 6'7" to 6'10"," King says. "I was real thin when I came in here, real thin. I'd be lifting weights trying to gain weight; then we'd run on the track and I'd lose it. After we got done running, I'd go back out to see if I could find it. I never could."
King earned a starting slot as a freshman, but then came his grade troubles. He started again as a sophomore, but he was inconsistent and was benched. "That zapped my confidence," says King. He recovered it before last season, when Sooner coach Billy Tubbs told him, "Your time in the sun is coming. Make sure you have sunglasses on, because it's going to be bright." As the year began, opposing defenses were geared toward stopping Harvey Grant, Oklahoma's other, more heralded low-post man. King got off to a fast start and never stopped; while Grant suffered from flu in midseason, King scorched Iowa State for 55 points, 30 rebounds and 10 blocks in back-to-back Sooner wins. The King became the Juggernaut. "That's like a guy who's wreaking havoc everywhere," he says. "But in basketball, it's a guy who's playing well, who's got obstacles in his way but cannot be denied."
"Stacey has come around," says Tubbs. "But I still think he has some room for improvement. He may have just scratched the surface."
A creature of habit, King follows the same routine before every Oklahoma home game: He rubs a 12-year-old rabbit's foot in his dorm room and lovingly touches three Michael Jordan posters on his walls, contemplates a picture of his late friend Len Bias, whom King had met on a recruiting visit to Maryland, goes to the bath room and prays, takes extra shooting practice a the arena, winks at his mother in the stands, and then wishes each of the three referees a good game with a pat on the butt. "If I'm being nice to them, they might give me a break," King says.
Away from basketball, King indulges his interest in writing, whether for The Oklahoma Daily, for which he recently did an article on the goals of the university's mentorship program for minority students, or a four-page letter that convinced a judge that King had not run a red light and hence should not have to pay a $65 fine for the alleged violation. The judge isn't the only one he has tried to set straight. This year he has been giving tips to his younger brother, Darryl who was the Oklahoma high school player of the year last season and is a freshman at Midland (Texas) Junior College. "I think I'm better than Stacey," the 6'9" Darryl says. In Lawton Stacey is actually thought of as shy and retiring compared to Darryl.