UK’s Emma King will return for fifth season

Published 12:28 pm Thursday, March 16, 2023

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Emma King says she is “not done” being a student and also wanted to honor a preseason commitment to Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy so that she will return to the UK basketball team for a fifth season.

She let Elzy know before the season started she would be back to help the coaching staff know how to manage the roster.

“Technically, you can back out of it if I had wanted to. I am a woman of my word. I told her I would come back, and that’s what I am going to do,” said King. “At our end-of-the-year meeting, she challenged me to do certain things on and off the court.”

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She likes Elzy’s emphasis on being a “student-athlete” and knew she could work on finishing one degree, starting another, or beginning graduate school.

“As a player, I still have a lot I want to do and try to achieve. I am just looking forward to another year,” King said.

Her playing time increased her junior year when Kentucky won the SEC Tournament for the first time in 40 years. She had 10 points in a win over Auburn and nine points in 27 minutes in a win over Vanderbilt. She played a career-high 33 minutes against LSU.

King has played in 70 career games, including 24 last season when she made two starts. However, she played more than five minutes in just one game after Jan. 29 and played only one minute in UK’s first SEC tourney game and none in the next two.

Considering she scored over 2,500 points at Lincoln County High School and Kentucky struggled to a 12-win season where it finished last in the SEC, it would have been easy for King to be ready to walk away from basketball.

“Like anybody else, I can get down,” King admitted. “But it is more about perspective and being thankful for the blessings God gives me. Dad is always preaching that.

“I am in a Bible study group with another athlete, a law school student, and a FCA leader. We were talking about no matter where you are in life. You are living one of the prayers you asked for. That’s the perspective I try to have.”

Elzy has made it clear to players in meetings since the season ended that finishing last in the SEC is unacceptable and won’t happen again. However, UK lost leading scorer Robyn Benton to graduation, second leading scorer Jada Walker has put her name in the transfer portal and freshman Kennedy Cambridge is also transferring.

“We have to learn from last year and be part of the change to bring Kentucky basketball to where it can be,” King said. “I think we can do it. It’s just a matter of getting back in the gym and working. I like constructive criticism. It feeds my drive.

“We really have not got into particulars of what we each need to work on yet. It was a whirlwind of a season and she does not want to put any more pressure on us. She wants us to take time to reset.”

King said her teammates knew she likely would return for another season, but “their support” after she made her decision public convinced her even more she made the right choice.

“I did have a lot of friends and fans reach out on social media saying they were happy I was returning and that does make you feel good,” King said. “Knowing you have people in your corner helps.”

King has already been meeting with academic advisors to plot her academic course for her extra year. She has changed career paths multiple times and still is not optimistic about what she might want to do.

She is close to finishing a health science degree but has also been working on a marketing degree.

“Now I am questioning whether I should just to finish my human health science degree and then get into grad school instead of going for a double major,” King said. “I am working through that right now. I could be a business grad and work on a Master’s. I had some people in the business college reach out to me once they saw I was coming back.”

King originally planned to be an optometrist like her father but changed her mind and thought becoming an occupational therapist would be a better path.

“I have not written that off, but there is not a grad program for that here and it would also require a lot more school,” King said. “I’ve been thinking about pharmaceutical or medical sales. That’s why I am in marketing. But I also enjoy math and have thought about accounting. So we’ll just see what happens.”