King’s, Wilks’ high school finale comes in all-star games
LOUISVILLE — Already with decorated high school careers, former Lady Patriots Emma King and Kaitlynn Wilks played in their final games at this level and enjoyed the atmosphere of the Kentucky/Indiana All-Star Basketball Series on Friday and Saturday.
King, who has signed to play at the University of Kentucky, and Wilks, who has signed to play at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee, got the chance to play with the best in the sport in the annual series played over the weekend in Louisville and Indianapolis.
“There is obviously nothing else like it,” Wilks said. “Not very many people get to do this. Only 12 girls get to do this each year.”
Thanks to their talents and success at Lincoln County High School, King and Wilks were among the select players statewide invited to try out for the all-star team and the dozen eventually chosen by Kentucky All-Star head basketball coach Hager Easterling (East Carter) to don the Kentucky uniform for the storied series.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Wilks. “We got to hang out with a lot of different girls from different schools so that was really cool. And it was just a different experience.”
“It was a really great experience,” agreed King. “I had a great time and loved the coaching staff and the players. It was really cool.”
For King, who made the Kentucky Junior All-Star team last year, it was a mini-reunion of sort.
“It was good to go up there with all these people. Most of them I have played with before, last year in the all-star game and I’ve played with a bunch of them in AAU and, of course, I’ve played with Kaitlynn,” she said. “It was good for all of us to have one good send off before we go. It was all fun and we had a really good time.”
While King and Wilks both saw significant action in the games, it was a change from their usual games with minutes also seen on the bench.
“I talked to Emma about that,” said Wilks. “It was different than what we’re used to because we’re used to playing all the time. But I thought he (Easterling) did a good job of getting everybody in and giving everybody a chance. But, in the end, he wanted to win so he had to put the best ones out there. I understood that.”
The former Lady Patriot standouts tasted both victory and defeat in the weekend series. The “W” came Friday night in Knight Hall on the Bellarmine University campus in Louisville as the Kentucky girls drained 12 3-pointers in a 79-74 win.
“I got in a lot of foul trouble the first game and didn’t get to play as much, but that was a really cool experience to be able to say that we did that because everyone thought we were going to get beat by 40,” said King. “We beat Indiana and last year we lost both of our games.”
It would be Indiana’s All-Stars walking away with the win Saturday night, beating out Kentucky 76-71 in overtime at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
King and Wilks were two of the five players Easterling called upon to try and help lead the Kentucky team to the overtime win in Saturday’s rematch. King, who started both games, finished with 10 points in the loss and Wilks scored nine points.
“It was fun, but it was very stressful because everybody was tired,” King said. “We had played the night before and these are bigger, stronger people than we are used to playing against. It was fun to be in a situation like that and get to be out there in the overtime and try to fight back to win. It didn’t happen, but that’s okay.”
“We both played a lot that game,” Wilks added. “Cam Browning (Male High School) she fouled out the fourth quarter so they put me in, then me and Emma played pretty much the entire overtime.”
Both the Kentucky and Indiana All-Star teams brought equally amazing talent to the hardwood in the two-game series but Indiana seemed to have a size advantage over the Kentucky girls – most notably at the center position where Wilks, 6-0, battled inside against Hannah Noveroske, a 6-5 signee with Indiana University. While statistically Noveroske was only five inches taller, she made the former Lincoln center look very small.
“I guess you got to see the girl that I played against?” Wilks asked. “That was crazy. She was huge. She did look taller than that. Everyone here thinks I’m big but they don’t understand there’s girls out there that are three times my size.”
Although not intimidated by Noveroske’s size, Wilks had trouble controlling the paint.
“I’m used to being able to move people out of the way because I’m bigger than them. It was definitely different because I could not move her,” Wilks said. “I tried everything to try to move her and couldn’t. I would just get lucky if she moved a little bit.”
King did not have to go one-on-one with players of significant size differences, but the size and strength of her opponents did not go unnoticed.
“It was different than high school but, where I’ve played with my AAU teams, I’ve seen girls that size and bigger,” she said. “It wasn’t a completely new concept for me but I haven’t done that in so long. It’s been a while and was hard to readjust. It’s good for me to get used to. It’s good for me to tip my toes into the experience.”
“I was in there a lot and it was fun, but it was also hard. I have bruises all over me. I got beat and banged a lot.”
Despite the bruises and the hard work put into the all-star games, King and Wilks agreed that they had a basketball blast.
“It was so much fun,” said Wilks. “I’m so glad I got the chance to do this.”
“It was good and we had a lot of fun,” King added. “It was just a great experience.”
And now it’s off to college for King and Wilks.
King moved into her dorm room on the UK campus Wednesday to begin her journey as a Wildcat.
Wilks still has some time before she has to report to Nashville to join the Trevecca basketball team, with players not expected on campus until August.