He's from Akron, Ohio, he's a sophomore at St. Vincent-St. Mary
and he's already one of the best high school basketball players in the country.
No, this isn't 2000, and no, we're not talking about LeBron James.
We're talking about V.J. King
– a scintillating 6-6 small forward who is already being compared to the four-time NBA MVP.
"Once I came to (St. V's), I knew they were going to start making comparisons like that," King, 16, said in a hold-your-horses tone. "But Coach Dru (Joyce), especially, told me not to get into that comparison stuff. He just told me to keep working and start my own chapter, so that's what I'm doing."
King did that and more as a freshman. He led the Irish in scoring — right around 16 points per game — and helped them to a 20-10 record and a state runner-up finish.
SVSM fell to Bishop Watterson (Columbus)
, 55-52, in the Division II state final — a game in which King got in early foul trouble and finished with five points on 1-of-6 shooting to go with eight rebounds and one assist.
"It was a good experience to play in that arena," King said of Ohio State's Schottenstein Center. "We came up short, but it was still a good experience. We have the motivation to learn from our mistakes, so hopefully we'll get there this year. A state championship — that's the only thing on my mind."
A state championship, however, will have to wait. While many elite high school basketball players are spending their summers playing AAU around the country, King will spend his out of the country in Maldonado, Uruguay — from June 11-15, anyway.
Because he was named to the USA Basketball Men's U16 National Team.
One of 31 hopefuls invited to try out for the team, King made the initial cut to 16 and the final cut to 12.
"It's been great," he said. "It's been great to have the coaches bring us together from all over the country. To make that final 12 is a great honor to be recognized for my state, my city and my school. I'm representing my country. It's a great honor."
King, along with the nation's best, have been training in Colorado Springs, Colo., and will compete in the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship. The United States has twice won the biennial event, which was launched in 2009, and boasts an unblemished 10-0 all-time record.
Argentina, Bahamas, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Uruguay will also compete, with the top four teams advancing to the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship.
Despite the squad's immense talent, King said everyone is sacrificing and doing what's best for the team.
"We bonded quickly," he said. "We're all trying to work for one goal. We're a team. We put everything else — the (individual) rankings and all that other stuff — aside. We're a team trying to win a gold medal."
The U.S. starting lineup is yet to be named, but assistant coach Eric Flannery, who is also the head coach at Ohio's St. Edward (Lakewood)
, said King has established himself as one of the team's go-to scorers.
"It's definitely a new challenge," King said. "I'll have to adjust my game a little bit because these aren't just the local kids that I play with. These are kids from around the world — the best in their country. So I've got to make quicker decisions."
One decision that King has a lot of time to ponder is where he'll go to college. He's already been promised scholarships from several elite Big Ten schools, including Ohio State and Wisconsin.
King said there's no early favorite in the recruiting process.
"It's good to see that the coaches recognized my work and my talent and they like how I'm playing," King said. "But all the coaches basically told me I have a lot of time. Just keep your head down, do your thing, stay humble and keep working. So I just take the feedback from the coaches and keep on doing what I'm doing.
"I'm trying to stay focused on the moment because I'm not guaranteed tomorrow. I'm just focused on what I need to do for my team now."
King's upcoming trip to Uruguay will be his first time leaving the country. While he hopes to see some sights and is excited to experience the culture, he wasn't coy about his No. 1 goal — to win a gold medal.
"That's what we're practicing for," he said, "and that's why they brought us together."
A gold medal wouldn't exactly quiet the LeBron James comparisons, but perhaps the sophomore has more in common with his school's most famous alum than he realizes. After all, for V.J. — which stands for Vincent, Jr. — King isn't a nickname; it's a surname.
One that we'll probably be hearing for quite some time.