Joey King continues basketball career overseas

Joey King, a 2016 Gophers basketball alumnus, recently signed with a team in Belgium.

Minnesota forward Joey King pushes through Indianas defense at Williams Arena on Jan. 16, 2016.

Liam James Doyle, Daily File Photo

Minnesota forward Joey King pushes through Indiana’s defense at Williams Arena on Jan. 16, 2016.

by Jack Warrick

Former Gophers forward Joey King took his talents overseas last year, where he played with a Finnish professional basketball team.

Next season, King is overseas again, this time with a team in Belgium.

“As of now, I’ve got a contract over there,” King said. “I’m locked in for now. Obviously, I don’t know how long I’ll play … I have a lot going on over in the states.”

Going to Finland

King played with Kataja Basket Club, a professional basketball team in southeast Finland. He averaged 10.6 points per game last season where he played in every game of Kataja’s season. He averaged 32.0 minutes per game, the second most on the team.

“[King] is planning to do it again,” said Gophers head coach Richard Pitino. “To see how long he can possibly do it, to save your money and go tour the world.”

King said the contracts in Finland are usually one-year deals. Tommi Huolila, King’s Finnish teammate with Kataja, said foreign players usually only stay for one year in Finland because if they stay for two, the taxes make it very expensive to live there.

“[King was] of course a rookie, and trying to learn the European ways,” Huolila said. “But, he was interested in the culture, and he really did his effort to get to know how things work here.”

Kataja is in the Basketball Champions League, a European professional league that saw its first year of play in the 2016-17 season. King and the Kataja team traveled to countries all over Europe in a four month season, from late September to late January.

Back to the states

King said he came back home to Minnesota during the basketball season for only two days during Christmas. The team played almost every week and it had to travel hundreds of miles to places like Ukraine, Israel and Turkey.

“I used to think three hours was a long way away, getting down to Des Moines,” King said. “Now, spending six months away from home, it totally changed the game.”

King came back to Minnesota after the season ended and has been staying busy. He has been running clinics for young basketball players in grades 6-11 this summer.

He is also competing in the six-team Twin Cities Pro Am tournament which takes place at DeLaSalle High School and features current Gophers such as Amir Coffey and incoming freshman Isaiah Washington. King recently got engaged as well.

“Fortunately, when you play here, people know who you are and it opens up great opportunities,” Pitino said. “When you’re running a corporation [or] a business you want people like that who are team guys, and Joey was that.”

King shot 88.6 percent from the free-throw line in his senior year with the Gophers (2015-16) and led the team in 3-point shooting too. Pitino said King helped lay the foundation for what the team does well.

“He came here and he was probably that first guy that came to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the back,” Pitino said. “He came on to do it that way, teaching those young guys.”