Kai King is a 29 year old 182cm point guard from Rialto, California that just completed the season with Marler BC (Germany-Oberliga). He started his basketball career in 2005 with the Venice basketball league and played a few seasons with the Riverside Rainmakers (ABA). He then went to Africa in 2011 and played two seasons with Six Stars (Eqatorial Guinea-D1). In the 2012-2013 season he played for Six Stars (Eqatorial Guinea-D1)15.5ppg, 5.0rpg, 5.0apg, 1.0spg, then moved to ART Duesseldorf (Germany-2.Regionalliga) 10 games: 20.0ppg, 6.0rpg, 7.0apg. IN the 2013-2014 season he played for the Bobcats Basketball Club (Mexico-Oaxaca, starting five): 25.0ppg, 6.0rpg, 7.0apg. He recently spoke to German Hoops about basketball.
Kai thanks for talking to German Hoops. The first thing I notice is your name which is a German name, but you are American. How did you get this name?
My mother gave me the name, but actually she chose the name for its Asian meaning and not its German one. Kai is not only a popular name in Germany, but it is also popular in Asia, Finland, it also has roots in Greece, Basque country in Spain, Cornish, Estonian Scottish, to name a few there are lots of different origins for my name not only in Germany.
You are playing currently in Germany for Oberliga team Marlor BC that has aspirations of moving up to the German Regionaliga. How did it come about that you landed here? You played for RT Duesseldorf (Germany-2.Regionalliga) two seasons ago.
I was on the arts team, but had issues and had to return home. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to lace it up like I had originally hoped. I landed the Oberliga job because the team in Kosovo was not doing what they had initially specified. I was playing for BKP Kastrioti but things didn’t work out as I had planned, so I came to Germany to play in the Oberliga after things fell through in Kosovo.
The team is currently in second place. How good are the chances of the club moving up to the German Regionaliga 2?
Our chances are very high, we have an opportunity to truly make some noise and move up into the Regionalliga 2 ranks. We just have to finish this second half of the season. Injuries to key players have slowed us down a bit, but we are all now healthy. We have a new addition to the team Chris Randolph ( D2 Washington Adventist ), he should help our team out a great deal with his defense, leadership and scoring. If we can continue to be healthy, keep our eyes on the prize and stay focused then I think Regionalliga 2 will be an obtainable task.
How do you handle your ego on a daily basis when you have to play in the Oberliga and can´t display your talent at a higher level?
Its a opportunity, a blessing. No matter what league it is, what country it is. I am blessed to get an opportunity to put my shoes on, put my jersey on and play the game that I love. Yes I think I have the talents to play on a higher level, I have the confidence in myself and the aspirations to play. If God wants it to happen it will. Right now I am enjoying Marler. I am enjoying being around my teammates and seeing the sights and sounds that Germany has to offer. My ego is fine, and I know that this opportunity can easily be taken from me at any time. I am happy and will continue to process no matter what country I am in.
Your teammate is American Dennis Mims who has played in Italy and for top Turkish team Besiktas Istanbul. Why does a 34 year old still need to play basketball for a sixth division German team? I can imagine it can´t be for any other reason than just total love of the game?
If you love something you’ll do your best no matter what. I will continue loving it and enjoying it. Dennis, Chris and myself aren’t the same age, but we have a drive and passion for this game. Yes he is 34 but he is still athletic, still driven and motivated and despite him being long in the tooth he still can lace it up with anyone. Age is not a problem. Its truly a blessing to play with a player of his stature and caliber. I learn something new from him each time I play with him and each time I sit down to talk with him. He has a love for the game, a passion for basketball, and he is also here furthering his education. I look to him for a number of things. He is a mentor on and off the court and I am thankful for guys like that whom can help out guys like myself.
You are a scoring point guard, but what is a hidden strength in your game that doesn´t get noticed right away?
My toughness, I think its something that is unnoticed especially coming from California. The misconception is that guys from Cali are soft, that we wear sandals all day, that we surf, that we ride skateboards. That our play on the court is just like the weather nice, manageable, easy going. That is a huge misconception, there is a dog in me. Ill mix it up with anyone, I’ll run through a wall, I’ll get dirty and do whatever is necessary of course. As long if its in the confines of the rules. I am tough, yes I am from Cali, yes we have nice weather, yes there is a Hollywood sign and movies stars all around. However I am tough. Ill guard a center, Ill guard a power forward, Ill do whatever I have to win.
You are 29 year old and in your prime. What goals do you still have as a basketball player?
I want to continue playing ball. I want to continue helping teams win, continue helping players develop and grow as players and also as people. My team requires that we give back to the community, so on certain days, we will coach the kids and help them develop as players and as people. I want to continue climbing through the ranks and showing people that I can indeed play, but I also want to help others and motivate them through this game of basketball. I have many goals and aspirations on and off the court, this game has brought me a lot of things and I am grateful for it.
Marl is about 30 kilometers away from Recklinghausen who have a Pro B team. Do you ever catch any of their games. How confident are you that you could keep up with these guys or even players in higher leagues in Germany?
Yes of course, I saw them play last week. I have also seen the ETB Essen team play and also the Hertern Lions and they are all great players in their own right. I am just confident in myself and the abilities that God has given me. I can keep up with them. I just need a chance, an opportunity to show them that I can indeed meet the challenge. Mexico was wonderful. Mexico was a beautiful country and the people are passionate about their sports. The problem is that unless you are in America, Europe, Australia, China. Then you will always have contract issues and disputes. Problems with management arise because they are not Fiba certified leagues. I was
Last season you played for Bobcats Basketball Club (Mexico-Oaxaca) What kind of experience was that for you? Besides having the contract issues how was your stay there on and off the court?
I was excited to get another opportunity to play in a Fiba sanctioned league where I do not have to worry about the league going under. Mexico was great, the weather was like California, the basketball and the fans were an absolute pleasure. However the uncertainty and inconsistencies of the league was what presented issues for me and my family. If those issues were okay then yes I would have loved staying there.
Two years ago you played for ART Duesseldorf (Germany-2.Regionalliga) playing 10 games averaging 20.0ppg, 6.0rpg, 7.0apg. After having a strong season in the German Regionaliga 2 did you expect some offers from Regionaliga or PRO B teams?
I wasn’t there the whole time. I got a few games under my belt but had to leave for personal reasons. For the time I was in effect there. It was great playing in Europe. Playing for a pro team, playing against guys who in their own right have talents and can hold their own was great. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay there the entire time and had to go back to the United States. Hopefully a full season in Oberliga will garner some attention from other teams next season. However I am focused on Marler BC. I am focused on helping them accomplish reaching Regional 2. If we do what we have to do on the court then it will be wonderful. I like the coach, the players. We have a family here. Thats what we preach before games, Marler BC, were family here. Cliche I know but I’m comfortable where I am and leaving would not sit well with me one bit.
How much fun was it playing for head coach Robert Shepherd who like you was a point guard as a player and played at Arkansas(NCAA). What could you pick up from him on and off the court?
It was an absolute pleasure, I enjoyed every minute that was given to me. And even though it was short lived, playing for him was an absolute dream. What he sees, how he approaches the game, what he thinks and how he prepared us as a team spoke volumes. It was evident to me the very first day I was there when I spoke with him. He is definitely a first rate coach and a first rate individual. It was an absolute pleasure being there and I learned a number of things from him. How to be a pro, how to prepare myself both on and off the court. How to keep things in the proper perspective and mind frame. As players we can get caught up in the wrong things. Feel that we should be treated a certain way and that often plays on our minds in decisions we make and decisions we don’t. He just showed me that this is a unique opportunity, that its a blessing and that in any moment it can be taken away. I owe him for that, I speak with him regularly and we remain friends to this day. I learned a lot from him and he is a great guy.
You played two seasons for Six Stars (Eqatorial Guinea-D1). What kind of experience was this? Sometimes players will stay many years in one country. Was this not an option for you since you would have been able to keep playing and be paid without having to worry about finding a new team?
Its a unique experience, people back home were a bit apprehensive towards the idea of me going to play basketball in Africa. I wont lie, even I was a little reticent on going myself. But I had a talk with my family and friends and also the man above and decided that this was a good thing for me. And that no matter what I wouldn’t be given a situation I couldn’t handle. Sure enough it was all love when I arrived, the people welcomed me with open arms. The league was very tough and competitive, having both great players from the African countries, Senegal, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Gabon, The Congo to name a few. There were also people there from the United States and also from Spain. Since Equatorial Guinea was once a colony of Spain. It was a unique experience, unfortunately I was unable to return because the team had financial issues and couldn’t keep the Six Stars team going. I would have loved to play there. Love to have seen my friends that I met in my time there, but unfortunately money issues with the team didn’t allow me that opportunity again.
You had a workout at the Bakersfield Jam Free Agent (NBA Camp Tryout): 10ppg, 5rpg, 4apg, 2spg, FGP: 45%, 3Pts: 38%, FT: 80%. This was the perfect stage for you to showcase your abilities. Did you ever get any interest from D-league teams?
Yes I actually did, but I always has dreams and aspirations to play abroad. I did fairly well at the tryout and was told that I could play in the D League if I focused and devoted myself to the process of being a D League Pro. That was all I needed to hear. Hearing that fueled my fire, and gave me the confidence that I needed to play overseas. It was from that tryout that I realized that I could play with just about anybody in the world. That D League tryout changed my life in many ways and it was the starting point. The spring board that has gotten me where I am today. I am thankful that I drove four hours from my home, no sleep, getting right out of work to make the trip. If I hadn’t done that, who knows where I would be. I certainly wouldn’t have been playing basketball thats for sure.
You were a Venice Basketball Pro Am League Champion in 07, 08, 09, 10, 11. Which title was your sweetest?
Each one of them is sweet, each one is unique and different. Its just a honor to play with guys that you grew up with. Also with guys in the area that you emulated and idolized. It was great going out there, and I had fun each and every time I went out there. So its really hard to narrow it down to just one title. Each was sweet, each was unique, each was significant and important in their own way.
Could you ever imagine making a living in Europe after your playing days or will you go home again?
Absolutely, during the break here, I was able to travel to Italy. Yes you read it right Italy! I was able to visit Venice, Rome and a nice beach city known as Porto San Giorgio. It was amazing to see Venice and the Gondolas. To see all the beautiful churches and architecture in the city. Then to travel to Rome and see the Coliseum, the Vatican, and all of the many beautiful sights and sounds of Roma. To eat the pizza, to taste the Gelato, man it was an amazing trip. So when you ask this question, could I make a living in Europe I say. Absolutely!
What have you learned to appreciate the most in Germany since you have been here?
I appreciate the game of basketball, I appreciate friendship and family, because, when you are out here by yourself. You build bonds with people that may last for the rest of your life. I have learned to appreciate where basketball has taken me and I’ve learned that family and friends make it all the more while
What was the last DVD movie that you saw?
The last DVD I saw was Despicable me 2.
Thanks Kai for the chat.