Carson High has nearly doubled its win total from last year, and a major reason why is the offensive play of Rafe King.
The talented senior is averaging nearly 15 points a game and shooting 40 percent from the field in helping Carson to an 11-10 record entering Friday's home game against Bishop Manogue at 7 p.m.
"We're doing a lot better than we did last year, and I'm happy about that," said King, who is averaging more than 22 points a game in his last two outings and suffered through a six-wn season last year. "If my scoring goes down and we're winning, I'm fine with that. I don't think I'm doing as well as I should be, though."
That's youth talking.
King thinks the ball should go down each time he shoots. He has confidence in his ability and high expectations to go with it.
Those scoring and shooting numbers may not sound impressive, but when you consider he's taking a lot of 3-point shots and muscling his way past defenders to get to the basket, the stats stand out a little more.
"He's become a more physical player (the last two years)," Carson coach Carlos Mendeguia said. "He got a lot stronger in the off-season. He was getting into the weightroom; hitting the weights hard. He's gotten stronger and faster.
"He's getting everybody's best shot defensively."
King has gone from a sophomore who opted to play JV instead of varsity to one of the most dangerous players in Northern Nevada. His improvement has been tremendous, and its come through a lot of hard work. King works with a personal trainer and spends most of his free time working on his game.
Besides lifting weights, King said he's been doing plyometrics, which is designed to increase power and explosiveness. According to WebMd.com, it was originally developed for Olympic athletes and now has become a popular workout routine for people of all ages.
The improved conditioning has enabled King to be a multi-dimensional player, not just a guy hoisting up 3-pointers. He probably scores as much on drives to the basket as he when he shoots from the outside.
He wants the ball in the critical situations and doesn't shy away from taking the big shots.
"His confidence his much improved from when I first met him," said Reed coach Dustin Hall, who coaches King in travel ball.
That confidence is what basketball junkies call a shooter's mentality. Good shooters keep shooting even when they miss three or four shots in a row.
With shooters like King, sometimes shots fall and sometimes they don't. He went through a bad stretch in a tournament in San Diego where he shot less than 30 percent from the floor, then again, the competition was much stiffer than he sees in Northern Nevada.
"Streaks are in your head," King said. "All my coaches (Wolverines and Carson High) tell me that. If I missed three (before) I didn't think I was going to hit the next one or the next one after that.
"I know Dustin always tells me I'm the best shooter and not to worry about missing a shot. Garry Hill-Thomas (former Nevada player and Wolverines assistant coach) is always emphasizing defense when he talks to me."
A knock on King is that he sometimes gets frustrated when he misses, and then he gets impatient and forces up shots.
"He was forcing a lot of shots early in the year," Mendeguia said. "I don't call a step-back or fadeaway 3-pointer a really good shot. I've told him to let the game come to him, and the last several games he's done a better job of that."
One thing that sets King, and teammate Matt Nolan for that matter, apart from a lot of players is that they are capable of carrying a team on their backs for periods of time. Both Carson stars can score points in clusters.
King showed that ability in Tuesday's game against Reed. He scored 31 points, and he scored nine straight points during a second-half surge to get Carson back in the game.
"Rafe has played a lot of games; probably close to 1,000 since the seventh grade," Mendeguia said. "Rafe has played all over the place. He has been in so many different scenarios; seen so many different defenses; different defenses.
"It (carrying a team) is about being competitive and having confidence in your abilities."
King would like to play at the next level, but hasn't had any firm offers as of yet. He plans to play basketball in the spring in hopes of getting noticed by a two-year or four-year school. If interest doesn't materialize, he said he would go to the University of Nevada and be a full-time student.
Mendeguia said King has been getting some interest, but that his standout small forward needs to work on some things before he's ready.
"Lateral quickness is what he needs to improve on," Mendeguia said. "I've talked to coaches and they don't ask me about his offense, they ask me if he can handle a quick guard. Everybody knows he can shoot. He could probably play at the Division II level."
Hall thinks there is a place for King at the next level.
"He wants it so bad," Hall sad. " I definitely think there will be an opportunity for him. He works so hard. I think he can play JC or Division II basketball. Two years ago I wouldn't have said this."