Nebraska landed a new transfer commit in former Wisconsin guard Kobe King on Wednesday. To get some background on the 6-foot-4 shooting guard and former Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin, Hail Varsity reached out to friend of site Jake Kocorowski (@JakeKoco on Twitter), the beat writer for Sports Illustrated’s AllBadgers, for a quick Q&A.
What kind of player is Nebraska getting in Kobe King? What are his strengths and weaknesses?
JK: King showcased the potential to be a three-level scorer during his time at Wisconsin, but he really can attack the paint well. When he has the confidence to do so, he found a way to attack opponents and create opportunities for himself. He shot nearly 46% overall, but he was not a great 3-pointer shooter this year (25% on seven-of-28). He was an adequate free-throw shooter (67.3%) and was not necessarily asked to be a key rebounding presence for Wisconsin either.
I think the big thing for King is that ability to create shots and plays, something that was unique for Wisconsin to utilize, and I think he could still be a three-level scorer down the road.
Nebraska plays a free-flowing, up-tempo offense that features a lot of ball screens, off-ball movement and 3-point shots. How do you see King fitting into that style of play?
JK: I think King will adapt to that style of play well. I feel his athleticism and dynamic playmaking ability could emerge and shine even further in Lincoln under Hoiberg's tutelage. He can get to the rim, use ball screens to his advantage and find ways to get open. You saw his skill set at Wisconsin, and I think he could be a key player for the Huskers down the line.
That being said, and I mentioned this in the first question, he did not develop a more consistent 3-point shot in his time in Madison. He was injured after 10 games his freshman season, then last year worked back from the broken patella (and UW also had Ethan Happ and worked its offense mainly through him, which as legendary as he is, I feel stunted the offense's flow). I think he has the ability to make shots from deep, so that will be something worth watching down the line as he acclimates to a new system and what Hoiberg and his staff ask of him.
Obviously this is a complex situation with a lot going on, but what's your take on King's abrupt departure and what it says about both King and the Wisconsin program?
JK: First and foremost, any Nebraska fan wanting to learn more about the reasons why King left, I will defer to Jim Polzin's article from late January for the Wisconsin State Journal where the redshirt sophomore admitted his feelings about leaving UW did not just come out of the blue but developed early on in his time in Madison. Honestly — and media/reporters only see one side of the players for maybe 5-10 minutes once or twice a week — Kobe was always pleasant and cheerful during our interviews. Departing during the season and not afterwards stood out initially because of that, but King explained to Polzin why he did so. After reading the reasons why, I feel it was best for both parties. King's issues with Gard led to unhappiness, and it was the best decision for him.
That being said as well, Wisconsin has come together as a team since his departure and have won six of their last eight contests, including the last five. I know I'll talk more about that in the next couple of questions, but I think Gard has also done a standout job keeping the program together this season after the tragic May accident that injured assistant Howard Moore and claimed the lives of Moore's wife and daughter (Moore is still on medical leave).
On the court, Gard fought for Micah Potter's immediate eligibility this fall that ultimately was not fruitful, and King left the program. The team's strength and conditioning coach, Erik Helland — who was also UW's director of strength and conditioning for all of its athletic programs — resigned earlier in February (and Polzin reported another fantastic piece on the events that led to that decision, as Helland used an epithet when recalling a story about what a player said during his time in the NBA and not directed at King or another player).
This team has been through a lot in less than a year. No 2020 signees have asked for a release from their respective NLI or 2021 commits have wavered or decommitted. The King departure got really messy publicly, but I think it's best for all parties.
Obviously nobody understands the NCAA's decision-making when it comes to granting waivers, but what kind of a case do you think King has for immediate eligibility for next season?
JK: First off, I'm never quite sure what the NCAA's going to do when it comes to transfer situation.
Personally, I'm in favor of players becoming eligible immediately after transferring, and that's geared more towards the fact coaches can bolt quickly and leave players/commits/new signees hanging (*stares at various recent situations but even most notably the Colorado/Michigan State/Mel Tucker coaching carousel*). I know it could change the landscape of college athletics a decent amount and how programs recruit, but I think all would adapt.
There is that proposed transfer rule that would grant immediate eligibility to players, which could make any future waiver submission to the NCAA moot and just allow King to play right away. If that does not pass or is not implemented for this upcoming athletic calendar year, my gut feeling tells me there is a case that he plays immediately. After the extremely public nature of what has transpired in Madison the past month-plus, and the details highlighted in Polzin's recent reporting, I feel he suits up for the Huskers next season.
King was leading Wisconsin in scoring in Big Ten play, but the Badgers are 6-1 since he announced he was leaving. How has King's departure changed things for Wisconsin?
JK: Wisconsin's seeing a lot of contributions from different players since King left. It's been really interesting to see how the team has evolved even in the last month. During the Badgers' current five-game winning streak, five different players have led the team in scoring.
D'Mitrik Trice has found a whole new gear in distributing the ball the past seven or eight games but also scored 28 points in a road win at No. 19 Michigan on Thursday. Redshirt junior forward Aleem Ford has elevated his game not just in the points department but is becoming more of a presence on the boards. Potter is a huge contributor off the bench in not just spelling fellow big man Nate Reuvers for breaks but being an extremely efficient sixth man that can bump down low but also hit 3s. Brevin Pritzl is the definition of a glue guy in making plays when being called upon, and even Brad Davison went off for 30 points in Lincoln a few games ago.
The team could have just wilted under the circumstances of the last month, but the players have all stepped up at the right times.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.