A basketball player at the WIAA state boys tournament this year left a lasting impression on me with his display of class under pressure.
And he wasn’t even playing in the tournament.
I’ve attended the boys basketball tournament with my old college roommate for decades. During the opening night’s semifinals for the Division 4 teams this year, I watched a situation develop near our seating section. A young boy spotted Badgers freshman basketball player Kobe King, who led his La Crosse Central High School team to a state title in the same Kohl Center the year before, watching the action from his seat near the court on the first level. The boy politely approached King, who was dressed in a jersey with former Badgers star Frank Kaminsky’s name on the back, and asked King for his autograph on his tournament program. King obliged with a smile.
A second youngster noticed and followed suit. And another. And another.
Soon, a long line of young people waiting for autographs and selfies ran down the aisle toward King’s seat. As he did with the first boy, King smiled and had his photo taken each time. Young boys and girls would put their arm around the shoulder of their Badger hero as friends and family took photos. King never once turned away a request or looked the least bit annoyed. A smile never left his face.
This lasted the entire 18-minute first half. King couldn’t have seen more than a couple minutes of action on the court. He was incredibly patient. This was obviously a young man who knows where he came from, someone who understands he’s a role model for young people who watch his every move. And he made all the right moves.
King had season-ending knee surgery in December of his freshman year and missed the rest of the season. He will be back for three or four more years as a Badger — four if he receives a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA. Wisconsin can be proud this young man is part of their team. He’s pretty easy to cheer for.