Taking Charge: Bigger, more physical King assumes larger role for Bull Dogs

When Sam King broke into the Columbus North starting lineup as a junior last season, he was content to defer much of the scoring load to his older and more experienced teammates.

This year, King is one of the go-to players for the Bull Dogs. The senior center has helped lead the team to a 4-2 start going into Friday’s game at Columbus East.

“Sam has had a great start to the season,” North coach Paul Ferguson said. “We saw a big jump in his game in the summer. We were very excited as a coaching staff because a lot of the things that you’re seeing right now, we saw in the summer. His confidence had grown, his shooting improved and we also just saw his passion for the game had grown, and that was the most exciting thing for me as a coach because we knew Sam was going to put the work in to have a great season.”

Not only did King grow from 6-foot-6 to 6-8 since last season, he gained 10-to-15 pounds to bulk up to 220.

“It has definitely helped my cause,” King said. “The weight, as well as the couple of inches have helped a lot. When I get the ball at the top of the key, I’m able to see the whole floor and make the open pass.”

King, who went the the UnderArmour Nationals with his D-I Indiana travel team this summer, also has added an outside shot to his repertoire. He’s made six 3-pointers in six games this season.

“Over the summer, I gained more confidence in it,” King said. “Last year around this time, I was a good shooter, but I just didn’t have enough confidence to take three or four shots behind the arc in a game. Over the summer, I had a lot of reps, and now, I feel like I can go outside and hit at least two or three of them.”

At 13.9 points a game, King is just a tick under junior Cooper Horn’s team-leading 14.0 average. King leads the Bull Dogs with 5.8 rebounds per contest.

“I’ve tried to adapt to other teams and how they guard me,” King said. “I feel a couple games, I could have done a little bit better getting other people involved. As a leader on the team, I feel like I’ve had to kind of get the other guys going and kind of be our energy guy. All the other guys kind of feed off of Coop and I.”

Ferguson noted that there are a lot of little things that King does that don’t always show up on the stat sheet like his ability to wall people up in the post, and his mental toughness. When he makes a mistake or things don’t go well, he just tries to move on to the next play.

“He’s scoring the ball well for us,” Ferguson said. “He’s a tough matchup for teams because he’s a big guy who can score in the post, but he can also shoot from the perimeter. He can pass the ball well. If teams try to put another big guy on him down in the post, we can move him outside.”

King’s size and versatility have attracted college scouts. Coaches from Hanover, DePauw, Wabash and IU-East came to see him play Friday at Fishers.

“There’s definitely been a lot of D-II, D-III and NAIA interest,” Ferguson said. “The ones around Indiana are recruiting him hard.”

North has played a tough schedule early, having beaten Class 3A then-No. 4 Silver Creek and fallen to 4A No. 5 Fishers the past two Friday nights. The Bull Dogs’ only other loss is to a 4-1 Seymour team.

“I’m pleased with how we’ve played so far,” King said. “We’re playing pretty physical. We’re playing hard. A lot of the competition we’ve had this year has been extremely scrappy and up in our face, and I think we’ve responded to that really well. We’re not the most physical team, but how hard we play has helped us through the first part of the season.”

The goal is to help North win its sectional title since 2013.

“That’s definitely first on my list, but we want to beat East, and we have a couple other tough opponents coming up,” King said. “We just want to continue to play hard and have a successful rest of the season.”

Rivalry Week

Today: North at East boys and girls swimming, 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday: East at North wrestling, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday: East at North girls basketball, 6 p.m. (JV) and 7:30 p.m. (varsity)

Friday: North at East boys basketball, 6 p.m. (JV) and 7:30 p.m. (varsity)

Admission: $6 each night