King to play basketball at UVA-Wise

Published 4:50 pm Friday, April 27, 2018

From state champion in track to two-time state tournament starter in basketball, Mackenzie King has carved out a place as one of the all-time sports greats in the long history of Harlan High School.

King took the next step in her athletic career on Friday when she signed with the University of Virginia-Wise to continue her basketball career. King was joined by family and friends in a ceremony at the school to celebrate the occasion and reflect on her career.

“On my first visit to UVA-Wise, I knew that was where I wanted to go to school and play basketball,” King said. “I loved the campus, especially their basketball facilities which are really impressive. I feel like I will be able to fit into their style of play and, hopefully, contribute to the program my first year there. I also love that it’s close enough to home so my family will be able to come to games.”

Best known for basketball and softball in middle school, King found her biggest sucess in track when she arrived in high school. After finishing sixth in the Class A state in the discus and 10th in the shot put as a freshman, King moved up to third in both events as a sophomore. She was a state champion in the shot put as a junior and placed third in the discus. She is currently ranked first in the state in the discus as a senior and fourth in the shot put.

As a starting forward in basketball, King moved into the starting lineup as a freshman and averaged 6.1 points per game on a squad that advanced all the way to the regional finals before falling to Corbin, while winning the first of three straight All “A” Classic regional titles.

With guard Jordan Brock becoming a star by the next year, King played a crucial supporting role, along with her sister, Katie, on a 13th Region Tournament championship team in 2016. Even with standout senior forward Emma Bianchi going out with a shoulder injury early in the 2017 season, Harlan was able to repeat as 13th Region champs and advanced all the way to the All “A” Classic state finals. King averaged 7.6 points as a sophomore as Harlan finished 27-5 and 13.3 points as a junior for the 27-9 Lady Dragons.

“Kenzie epitomizes what a warrior is. She comes and does her job with toughness and no excuses,” said former coach Derrick Akal, now the boys coach at Harlan. “I’m proud of the young lady that she has become and believe that UVA-Wise is getting a steal.”

When Brock left for Tennessee Tech, King took over as the Lady Dragons’ leader this past season under first year coach Tiffany Hamm, also a former Harlan hoops star. King was near the top in the region as she averaged 19.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in leading Harlan to a 52nd District runner-up finish and a 16-16 record.

I’m so excited for Mackenzie, and I am looking forward to watching her play at UVA-Wise,” Hamm said. “I’m confident in her athletic abilities and will to win. Mackenzie is very deserving of this scholarship and opportunity, which is a direct result of her commitment to excellence. She has been an integral part in the success the Lady Dragons’ basketball team has garnered throughout her playing career.”

King is looking forward to the next step in her career but has plenty of fond memories of her high school years.

“I have loved every second I have played basketball at Harlan,” she said. “Looking back, I feel like I was part of building something special with the program. Winning back to back regional championships was great. Going to the Sweet Sixteen is something everyone wants to do. To be able to go twice is amazing — especially the second time because no one really thought we would be able to repeat.”

King joins a UVA-Wise team that finished 6-21 last season and lost six players to graduation. Jamie Cluesman, a native of Jonesville, Va., was recently named the new coach after six years as an assistant coach at Shepherd University. UVA-Wise is an NCAA Division II school in the Mountain East Conference. The Cavaliers will move to the South Athletic Conference in the 2019-2020 season. UVA-Wise will become the 12th member of the league, which includes Lincoln Memorial University and Carson-Newman College.