The Wisconsin Badgers will be without one of their top scorers going forward. Redshirt sophomore Kobe King has left the team, he announced Wednesday.
King is the team’s second-leading scorer, recording 10 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists a game through 19 games played this season. He did not travel with the team to Iowa City for UW’s 68-62 loss to Iowa on Monday.
“After talking with family and friends I have decided that the best step for my future basketball aspirations, as well as my love for the game, is to immediately step away from the University of Wisconsin Men’s basketball program,” King announced on his Instagram. “This has been a very tough decision for me, however after spending almost 3 years in the Wisconsin program I have realized that this program is not the right fit for me as a player and person. Being a Wisconsin kid my whole life, I always dreamed about being a Badger and representing this state every game. I am grateful that I was able to get the opportunity to play for such a great University.”
King had grown unhappy in recent weeks with the direction of the team, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Although he’s shot just 25 percent from behind the arc this season, the La Crosse native is perhaps UW’s most dynamic player on offense. On a team that often struggles through prolonged scoring droughts, King is often the best-equipped on the court to create his own shot and generate scoring. At his best, King is one of the more talented and athletic slashers in the Big Ten, providing the Badgers a consistent source of production.
“Being a student-athlete in the Wisconsin men’s basketball program is a special privilege and opportunity and I’m disappointed that Kobe has chosen to leave, particularly at this point in time,” head coach Greg Gard said in a statement. “But I respect his right to do what he feels is in his best interest. I wish Kobe all the best.”
The decision mostly came as a surprise. The team found out they would be without King just moments before they set out for Iowa City.
“Yeah, it did [catch us off guard],” junior guard D’Mitrik Trice told reporters after the game Monday. “For the most part, we weren’t really sure why. We still don’t really know why. We think he’s just attending to his personal issues, coaches are telling us that. Whatever he’s doing I hope he’s figuring it out.”
Growing up in Wisconsin, King represented a major in-state recruiting win for Gard – he was the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state and won the State Championship his senior year. King was a three-star recruit out of La Crosse Central, joined by Brad Davison and Nate Reuvers in Gard’s 2017 class.
King missed much of his freshman year, scoring just 5.2 points a game in 10 games played. A fractured patella in his left knee derailed the rest of that season, and the effects could clearly be felt when he came back last year. He scored 4.2 points and recorded 2.1 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 34 games a season ago, often providing a scoring-punch off the bench.
After losing Ethan Happ and Khalil Iverson, King earned a starting role this season and gained a bigger responsibility in the offense. King led the team in scoring in conference play, and his teammates have often noted his potential to reach another level.
After picking up multiple top-25 wins last week, the Badgers have lost two in a row and will host No. 14 Michigan State at the Kohl Center on Saturday. UW will enter the matchup with a 12-9 overall record and 5-5 mark in the conference. Wisconsin currently sits seventh in the Big Ten.
“We are a resilient team,” Gard said in the statement. “I am confident in our staff and players. We are moving forward fully committed to each other and to achieving our collective goals.”