Primed for takeoff
Chance discovery at Ohio airport lands King at VUU
Fred Jeter | 2/1/2024, 6 p.m.
College athletes frequently transfer, usually for more playing time, a higher profile environment, to be closer to home or even for more Name Image Likeness (NIL) money.
Jonathan King fell into a different category in transferring to Virginia Union University from Alderson Broaddus University in tiny Philippi, W.Va.
The springy, 6-foot-7 native of Akron was “homeless,” of sorts, when Alderson Broaddus closed its doors for good last summer.
“It was kinda crazy,” said King, who has junior eligibility for VUU.
He averaged about 12 points and seven rebounds last season for Alderson Broaddus, a former member of the Division II Mountain East Conference.
Fate led King to Lombardy Street.
With an uncertain future, King was working in the Akron-Canton Regional Airport last August when the Virginia Union football came through — on the way to the HBCU Hall of Fame Classic in Canton.
The VUU contingent included former Panthers standout Ralph Brown, now the school’s assistant athletic director for marketing.
“He started looking me up and down,” King said, laughing. “I told him I was looking for a school and he got me in touch with Coach Butler.”
VUU Coach Jay Butler recalls “getting a text” from Brown and following up on the opportunity, offering King a scholarship.
He’s glad he did.
Starting 15 of the Panthers’ first 21 games this season, King was averaging 7.1 points (fourth on the team) and 4.9 rebounds (second), with 21 steals and 18 assists. He’s hitting 49% from the field and 76% at the foul line.
King has been especially impressive on defense as VUU held Virginia State and Bowie State to under 50 points. The Panthers, 9-12 entering the week, extended their winning streak to three games on Jan. 27 with a 76-60 win at Bluefield State.
“Jonathan does a lot for us on defense,” Coach Butler said. “And as he learns more about our system, he’ll become more of a factor on offense.
This has been a trying season for the usually powerful Panthers. Only two players returned from last year’s NCAA tournament qualifier.
That’s why, while still in late August, Butler was on the lookout — even in an airport — for skilled roster fillers.
He’s glad he found King before he took off for points unknown.