Aware of what news could be ahead of him, Joey King showered, emerged from the Williams Arena locker room and, with a walking boot strapped to his right foot, decided to make one more stop.

Long after the celebrations of Senior Night had subsided, more than an hour after Wisconsin had thrashed Minnesota, the senior forward hobbled up onto the raised court, with his winter coat and backpack on, to shoot hoops with a smiling young boy in a Gophers jersey.

"You'd have to literally drag him off the court, especially on Senior Night, [for him] to stop playing," coach Richard Pitino said Friday.

A day after the Gophers' 21st loss of the season, a 62-49 mismatch against the Badgers, King got the news he probably feared when he answered media questions in the locker room Wednesday night, overcome with emotions. His foot had been fractured when he landed awkwardly in the game; his career in maroon and gold was likely over.

Pitino said on Friday that King is "definitely" out for Saturday's regular-season finale at Rutgers and that he's "highly doubtful" for the Big Ten tournament, leaving open the slight possibility that King could hit the court one more time as a collegian when the team travels to Indianapolis next week. The Gophers will be the 13 seed and play either Illinois or Penn State.

It was the latest blow for both the Gophers — who will now have just five scholarship players available against the Scarlet Knights — and for King, whose final year has included a historically bad 14-game losing streak and has been stained by late-season off-court incidents.

On Tuesday, less than two weeks after the team's only other senior, Carlos Morris, was dismissed from the team, Pitino announced that three other players would be suspended for the remainder of the year. The news came one day before Senior Night, effectively hijacking that moment, too.

But all season, King has reflected on the big picture — three years of opportunity he never thought he'd get.

"Whether or not my senior year goes the way I'd like it to, I'm just proud that I got to be here, to play for a program like this," King said a few weeks back. "The only thing that matters to me is just getting to where I am now … coming in as a guy that a lot of people had low expectations for. I was able to do some things that I'm really proud of. And our team over the past three years has done some great things, and I'm proud of that. This year obviously hasn't been what I expected but … I don't tunnel in on this year, I look at my career as a whole, how much of a blessing it's been."

A hoops obsession

About nine years ago, King was a multisport seventh-grader not too focused on any one thing. Then, at the behest of Dan Haugh — current walk-on teammate Darin's dad — King joined a Minneapolis Southside league and found a new obsession.

When King was in high school and his brother, Erik, was diagnosed with leukemia, basketball became something more. With his parents buried by work, caring for Erik and hospital bills, King would escape to Life Time Fitness in Eagan to work on his shot.

Around that time, he started hanging around Williams Arena at the invitation of then-coach Tubby Smith.

One night when King was in ninth grade, Smith pulled him and eventual Duke star and Timberwolves player Tyus Jones into his office. "All right," Smith said to the duo, gleam in his eye, "are you ready to sign?"

King remembers being star-struck then, but a real recruitment never materialized. With no offer from the Gophers, he signed with Drake.

"When it came down to it, with my family situation, I needed a scholarship and I needed security," King said. "I knew I only had one shot at this. In high school, kids started experimenting with drinking and stuff like that … but I spent my time at the gym."

'A Minnesota lifer'

When Pitino was hired in the spring of 2013, King had another chance at his dream. The coach, looking to fill a roster quickly, recruited King — who was still looking to come home to be closer to his brother, who is now cancer-free — after one season with the Bulldogs.

King has never taken that opportunity for granted. In his three years at Minnesota, he's gained the reputation for unapologetically gutting out every practice drill — even at the bristle of some teammates — taking charges, pump-faking three-pointers and hitting free throws. His .886 percentage at the stripe lands second in Minnesota's single-season record books.

Pitino joked recently about King's ability to remain positive even during a season mired in struggles.

"It will be freezing cold, and he'll be like, 'Isn't it beautiful, Coach?' " Pitino said. "He's just one of those guys. He's a Minnesota lifer."

'A crushing blow'

On Friday, Pitino also called King one of the toughest players he's ever coached. Two days earlier, King landed badly on his right foot, fracturing it. But he said nothing and played for several minutes before Pitino pulled him to another standing ovation with just over a minute left.

"Obviously, that is a crushing blow," Pitino said. "It's disappointing for him. It's not the way I'd like him to end his career as a Gopher. But the fact that he fractured a part of his foot and still played on it … I think that speaks to the kind of competitor that he is."

Quietly, King gained another reputation off the court, trekking to a different middle school nearly every Friday last summer, on his own accord. He talked to the kids about his own story. He imagined a younger version of himself, one who would have appreciated moments like that.

And before he limped away from his last game at Williams Arena, he stopped for one more moment.

Asked what he was most proud of from his time as a Gopher, King's voice shook. His eyes welled full of tears.

"Just the fact that a lot of people in the stands don't just see me as a basketball player," he said, "but a good person."