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King of His Own Destiny
Ja’Vonte King is no stranger to adversity and he'll let nothing stand in his way of playing D-I ball.
Published: 2/2/2021 3:40:44 PM

Photos by Randy Jones | ORDER GAME PHOTOS

At the core of Blackfoot’s version of positionless basketball is an uber-athletic, sweet-shooting sophomore, who’s as tall as a prototypical Idaho high school big man but has the court vision and passing ability of a point guard. His basketball talents are essential to Blackfoot’s success, and his laid-back exterior is fundamental in disguising his steeled and fiery disposition.

Meet Ja’Vonte King, one of East Idaho’s brightest up-and-coming stars of the hardwood.

At 6-foot-5, King is as tall as many opposing post players, but the guard does most of his damage from behind the 3-point line or by slashing inside for tough buckets through contact or a well-timed kick-out pass to a teammate. His length and quickness allow him to be an aggressive defender and, while he’s admittedly slender, he’s one of Blackfoot’s best rebounders.

He and his family endured hardship a few years ago but, according to his coach, it helped shape his star sophomore’s fortitude. Any adversity King faces in the realm of athletics is incomparable to his big-picture struggles. So King isn’t discouraged by a missed shot or a turnover and, chances are, he’ll make everyone in the gym forget about his blunders with flare.

“He can make mistakes and then all the sudden he’s done three good things and made up for it,” Broncos coach Clint Arave said.

King moved to Blackfoot from Anchorage, Alaska, when he was a third-grader. He began playing basketball that year, too, but didn’t get serious about the sport until junior high, when he joined a travel team with Julian Bowie, who is a budding basketball star in his own right at Pocatello High School.

King has “been bigger than everyone else for a while” and began to enjoy those benefits when he started playing competitive basketball.

“I was never really good when I played city league and I started playing travel (ball) and it was a lot more fun,” he said. “I just posted up a lot and I knew I could score a lot more than those people.”

In the meantime, King and his family were recovering from the death of King’s mother. 

She died when King was 12, leaving King and his two younger siblings to live with their grandparents. It was especially hard for King, who grew up without his father being a significant part of his life.

“I’ve always lived with my mom and I’ve always been really close to her because my dad had never really been there,” he said. “So it was pretty tough.”

King still lives with his grandmother — an untraditional way to traverse adolescence. Arave and King agree that the circumstances have forced King to mature faster than many teenagers, and the adversity he faced as a youngster translates well to the basketball court and the football field, where King is a wide receiver for Blackfoot.

It has also forged King’s self-assuredness. He’s a year or two younger than many of his opponents’ teammates but doesn’t cower to pressure or competition.

“He comes across as really quiet and really reserved, but he, as a basketball player, is pretty fearless,” Arave said. “He’ll definitely tell people, ‘Hey, I’m going to beat you,’ or he’ll tell them about when he beat them.”

King has improved his shot and developed the rest of what Arave calls a “real gift for playing basketball,” transforming himself from a back-to-the-basket big man to a do-it-all force. Through 16 games, King was averaging 11.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals. He has some refining to do if he wants to achieve his goal of playing Division I college basketball, but Arave believes he has the foundation to get there.

“I think he’s talented enough to definitely play at an (Idaho State) or a local Division I, a Big Sky (Conference) team,” Arave said. “I think he could really be a Utah State, Boise State, potentially BYU-type player with some skill-building and development over the next couple years.”

King has his sights on the Power 5 — Oregon of the Pac-12 Conference specifically — for either basketball or football, and isn’t prepared to concoct a back-up plan if the D-I route doesn’t pan out, true to his intrepid temperament.

“That’s always been my dream,” King said. “Everyone’s always asking me if that doesn’t work out, what do I want to do, but I’ve never really thought of that. I really want to make that happen.”

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