Being a big man on campus is great, unless being big means there's no way to hide.
Joey King is 6-9. He's from Eagan. He's a senior on the Gophers basketball team. The only way someone this tall and familiar could hide in a crowd of Minnesotans would be to kneel behind a snowbank.
So when Richard Pitino benched King, King couldn't pretend it didn't hurt. In the first half after the benching, at Nebraska last week, King went 0-for-4 from the field and produced zero points in a game the Gophers would lose by 25.
"Obviously, I was a little frustrated in the first half at Nebraska," he said. "What it came down to was just growing up and moving on."
King didn't score until the final 3:07 of that game. He didn't make a field goal until 2:09 remained. He finished with a flurry, scoring 10 points, and on Saturday he proved he had recovered fully, leading the Gophers in scoring with 18 points as they lost to a quality Indiana team, 70-63, at Williams Arena.
It probably helped that Pitino gave him the advice that every shooter wants to hear. "I told him before the game, I really did, I said, 'Joey, our offense is so bad, if you have an open look, just shoot it,'" Pitino said. "I should have done that before."
King agrees. "Whenever I have the ball and more than five seconds have gone off the shot clock, he said to be a threat at all times," King said. "With the percentages I've been playing with, what it comes down to is I'm shooting around 50 percent from three. With those numbers, why would I not keep shooting?"
King made four of his five three-point attempts, and four of his team's six successful three-pointers.
King was making 93 percent of his free throws before Saturday, when he missed three of seven. Rick Pitino, Richard's father, attended the game. "He was the one who told him how to shoot free throws," Richard said of his father. "So blame him."
The Gophers are 6-12. They are 0-6 in the Big Ten. They have lost their past seven, and 10 of 11. They have lost to pretty much every team from South Dakota other than the Sunshine Bible Academy. King didn't exactly get benched by Kentucky.
"The most important thing for me is just to keep my head up," King said. "We're all playing for something here. Just like I am."
King's voice may have wavered a bit. It was hard to tell whether he was becoming emotional, or whether he was struggling with a cold.
"It's Coach's decision," he said. "Like I always have, I'm just going to move on."
He sought advice and comfort from his AAU coaches, his friends. The most important advice he's received may have come from the last person he wanted to listen to — the guy who removed him from the starting lineup.
"He was bad first half at Nebraska," Pitino said. "We had two or three practices before that and I told him, 'Joey, it's not you. It's not your fault.' I always tell people starting doesn't matter. But it matters to people.
"He was a little mentally out of it to start the Nebraska game. I said, 'Joey, you're making it about yourself.' He said, 'You're right,' and he played really well in the second half and he responded today.
"Joey wakes up every morning and he's proud to be a Gopher. He's one of those stories."
He is, but the current draft of his preferred story will require some editing.
"I just want to compete on every possession with my teammates and win some games," he said. "It's been a tough go of it the past 10 games or so. We've just got to keep fighting."
After spending most of the Nebraska game in a fog, King seems to have rediscovered the mental toughness that got him to Minnesota in the first place.
Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On