#TGW: King’s Holding Court Again

Jan. 21, 2016

By Matt Winkeljohn
The Good Word

   It’s possible the best stretch of Kevin King’s young life was spent at Georgia Tech so it’s not a surprise to see the top doubles player in program history on campus now and then. Seeing him so often is shocking.

   So was the double hip surgery that has made him a volunteer assistant coach.

   King was there with the Jackets from 2008-12, ripping shots left and right during the greatest stretch in Tech men’s tennis history, and he’ll be with the Jackets at UCLA this weekend as they play for a spot in the ITA National Indoor Championships.

  He’s been helping head coach Kenny Thorne and assistant coach Derek Schwandt since shortly after he had surgery on his right hip on Dec. 23. The left may be next.

   “I miss some things for sure. It’s really great playing on a team, and Georgia Tech was great,” he said. “I live close, and when I found out I was going to be out for a while . . . I wanted to see if I could help out as much as possible.”

   King has traveled extensively as a playing professional, yet still lives in Peachtree City. When he’s home, it’s common to find him practicing and working out at Tech. When he came calling to re-join the Jackets, it was a no-brainer.

   “It’s fantastic,” Thorne said. “He’s been through it; he knows how it works here, and he really connects with the guys.”

   Having played recently for Tech, King relates to the Jackets nearly on a one-of-them level. He’s earned nearly $100,000 as a pro, yet is not far removed from the daily grind that is unique to student-athletes on The Flats.

   A three-time All-ACC performer, he put together an 87-29 doubles record at Tech, and went 55-25 in singles while frequently playing in the No. 1 and 2 spots.

   King and Juan Spir reached the semifinals in NCAA Doubles Championships in 2011, knocking off the top seeds along the way. They finished 2011 ranked No. 9 nationally and 2012 ranked No. 4.

   He’s already helped sophomore Chris Eubanks slow down, working with the No. 6-ranked Jacket to better pace himself.

   “Kevin has done a really good job helping me make sure I finish my serve, said Eubanks, who is 15-4. “When things are going well, I tend to start rushing. He does a really good job of calming me down.”

   King’s been around.

   In 2015, he played several times in Mexico, Canada, France and Colombia, and even more in cities where his college career took him, places like Atlanta, Winston-Salem, Tallahassee and Cary, N.C.

   Life can be a grind on the ITP Futures and ATP Challenger events, and for King, occasional main tour events are like icing on his tennis cake. Those hips were not.

   “I was struggling toward the end of the year with hip flexor and groin things, and couldn’t really figure out what it was,” King explained. “I was at a tournament in Mexico, and the trainer down there told me that a lot of tennis players deal with hip conditions. I had that checked out and that’s what it turned out to be.”

   The news was similar to that received a couple years ago by Tech senior Casey Kay.

   “I had an impingement in my hip that caused a torn labrum and cartilage damage and they had to go in and fix the labrum and shave some of the hip bone,” he said. “I think it’s all the lateral movement, a lot of training on hard courts, a lot of stop-and-go.”

   Wednesday was King’s first day without crutches. He faces up to three months of rehabilitation before possibly undergoing the same procedure on his left hip.

   He wants to return to playing, yet is looking beyond that as well.

   It’s too soon to know what he’ll do after his competitive career, and the former Dean’s List student isn’t sure if he’ll put his mechanical engineering degree to use or stick around tennis.  

   He’s auditioning the coaching possibility as he rehabs.

  “I do enjoy it a lot; it’s a possibility. I think this is a great time for me to evaluate that,” King said. “I could see myself getting into engineering or possibly going back and getting an MBA. I’m not sure yet.”

   The Jackets are fairly certain King’s hitting the right spots now.

   “I don’t know anyone who could relate to us better on an individual basis because he knows; he’s been through it,” said sophomore Daniel Yun. “It’s been great having someone like that as a mentor.”

    If all goes well, an autumn return to pro tennis is possible. For now, King’s holding court at Tech. He’s working the net and networking at the same time.

   “I know the guys pretty well, and it’s a great group. I’ve been able to hit with them before so I know a bit about their games and personalities, and that helps,” he said. “I would say having graduated a couple years ago and having been on the tour, I can help with strategy and a few small mechanical things.”

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