Nov. 5, 2012
By Sara Roberts
AUBURN - In the world of college athletics it is common for athletes to have talent in more than one sport. Prior to their arrival on campus these athletes had to decide which sport they were going to pursue while leaving a career in any other behind. However, this binding decision is not the case for senior rookie Julie King.
King spent her first four years at Auburn playing on the soccer team, where she led the team as co-captain to an SEC Tournament Championship title in 2011. After the season she planned on spending her last year of college as a regular student and work with the soccer team as an undergraduate assistant.
All this changed when she was approached by Auburn's new women's basketball coach Terri Williams-Flournoy with an offer she couldn't refuse. Coach Williams-Flournoy offered King a spot on the team giving her a chance to return to the game she had always loved.
"When Coach Flo offered me this opportunity, I didn't really even have to think twice about it," said King. "In high school it was a really difficult decision for me whether or not I wanted to play basketball or soccer in college, and I obviously decided to play soccer so I kind of had to give up on the dream of any college basketball experience. For this to be offered to me, I couldn't ask for anything more."
King began playing basketball before she started playing soccer. Her dad, a former college basketball player, introduced her to the game at a young age. She played both sports in high school but decided to pursue soccer at the collegiate level.
"I had a basketball in my hands before I had a soccer ball at my feet," King claimed. "So I'd been playing for forever up until college, and once I got to college I really didn't pick up a basketball much over the last four years except for maybe a couple times over Christmas break and that's about it."
As expected, this adjustment onto a new team in a new sport wasn't as easy for King as making her decision to play. She left the soccer team with a bigger roster for a basketball team with fewer players and more coaches.
"It's been really hard going from being an SEC champion and co-captain of the SEC championship soccer team to being a rookie as a fifth year in a whole new sport," King said. "So it's been a challenge to keep perspective of that, but my family has really helped me and I've definitely had to use the people around me to help me with this challenge. The coaches have been great with helping me with a lot of the details that I either missed out on as a high school basketball player or was never taught."
One of the things that made her adjustment easier was the ability of her new teammates to welcome her from the start. King expected her transition in as a fifth year rookie to be confusing to the other players but their reaction was just the opposite. "Right off the bat they were just opened armed," King recalls. "All the teammates were excited to have me. There was really no `who is this girl?,' no confusion, or anything like that. Obviously I was a little nervous coming into a new team. Being 22-years-old and coming into a brand new college team, that's a little bit of an odd thing but they made it so easy for me and just really brought me into their family right from the get go."
After joining, it really didn't take King long to get into the swing of things. Her previous playing experience combined with natural athleticism guided her back into the sport with ease. The talent this year's team has under the direction of Williams-Flournoy has given the girls a positive outlook for the upcoming season. King's expectations for her new basketball team are the same she had for her soccer team-win.
"That's what I like to do. I like to win. I love winning," King said. "As a team player, I'll do whatever I can to help the team win. Individually I'm very competitive and I know realistically I'm stepping into a sport I haven't played in four year, but I'm going to work my hardest to do whatever I can to help the team win.
"If that's cheering from the bench, then that's cheering from the bench. If that's coming in and getting a few points then that's what that is. If that's being a leader whenever I can then I'll do that. I'm just thankful for the opportunity and I'm willing to play whatever role Coach Flo wants me to play."
King is still thrilled about the opportunity she has been given, as any athlete would be. This second chance to play the game she has loved for so long shows her undying commitment to the game and to Auburn.
"I feel very blessed for this opportunity and I'm so excited to see what this brings," King said. "It has already brought me a great new group of friends and a new family to be around. To be a part of the Auburn community and the Auburn family as an athlete for another year, I couldn't dream of anything more. This in incredible."
King will officially suit up for the first time this week as Auburn opens its 2012-13 season at the Wolfpack Invitational in Raleigh, N.C. The Tigers will take on Maine at 1:30 p.m. CT, Friday in the season-opener.