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Athlete of the Issue: Connor King

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Athlete of the Issue: Connor King

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Freshman Connor King has become the king of the pool this year, as many of his coaches and teammates can attest.

He has been a natural at water polo since he began playing in sixth grade. He now starts for the varsity water polo team and is the second-highest scorer.

“A friend of mine was playing [in sixth grade]. He recommended that I start, because I was a swimmer a while before water polo,” King said. “Water polo’s pretty much 50 percent swimming, so my background in swimming really helped me.”

King moved to Marin from the east bay in the eighth grade.

“On the East Bay, it’s a lot more competitive. Definitely, the level of water polo is a lot higher there,” he said.

King made the US National Team that same year before even playing for Tam. The US National Team is part of the Olympic Development Program.

King played on the Pacific Zone All-Star team which made up a majority of Northern California’s top water polo players.

“We played against Southern California’s all-star teams, and even Great Lakes and Florida all-star teams,” he said. From there, 70 athletes were selected to go to a training camp, or selection camp. After four days of that, the field was narrowed down to around 18 kids chosen to represent the nation for a certain age group. This is the team King made in eighth grade.

Senior Jackson Hettler, a teammate and friend of King, met him through the Olympic Development program.

“I knew he’d be a real good player, especially for our program,” he said. “He’s been scoring a lot of goals which is what we need….I can’t imagine how good he’s going to be as a senior.”

Head coach Bob Kustel was grateful to have King on the team.

“He starts as a freshman, and only one other freshman has started in my 15 years here….he’s our second-leading scorer, he’s our best defender, and he’s got a great understanding of the game, and he’s been the big reason that we’ve been so successful this year,” Kustel said. “When we got in our first game, we weren’t sure whether he was going to be on varsity or JV at that point, and then we put him in for our first scrimmage, and he dominated.”

Due to the personality of the members of the varsity water polo team, King is less intimidated by being a freshman on a varsity team.

“The guys on the team are really nice to me and really supportive. It is hard though. It’s a lot of work,” he said. “I just like being in the water. It was really fun, and all the people that play water polo are generally pretty good people.”

King plans to play water polo all four years in high school and expectations are through the roof for him. “He’s got the potential to be a Division one water polo player [and] play at a place like Cal or Stanford or USC or UCLA. I mean, he’s that good,” Kustel said. “The Cal assistant coach was here…scouting some players and saw him and I know he’s going to be interested in talking to him more. So, he saw the potential. I think he’s got a great future.”

In the meantime, King continues to focus on the season at hand.

“He’s been scoring a lot of goals which is what we need….he’s a [good] defender so….he’s been shutting [all the team’s best players] down,” said Hettler. “And for a freshman, that’s really good, so I can’t imagine how good he’s going to be as a senior.”

Kustel also had good things to say about King. “He doesn’t have a cocky attitude, even though he could, he’s so good. He’s just a great team player, [and he’s] got a great attitude,” Kustel said. “From the first game on, he’s been so solid in the water in every aspect, offense defense, the whole thing. He guards [the opposing team’s] best player, and he does everything you want out there.” ♦

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Athlete of the Issue: Connor King