Aug. 11, 2014
WASHINGTON - The announcement of Natasha Adair becoming the ninth coach in Georgetown women's basketball history wasn't just a homecoming for Adair and some of her staff. It was also fate for then-freshman Tyshell King (Baltimore, Md./St. Frances Academy).
King came to the Hilltop in 2013, but her basketball journey began years before in Baltimore, Md. King grew up in a rough part of Baltimore that, although less than an hour from The District, is an entirely different world. After showing off her basketball prowess early, she gained the attention of the coaches at St. Frances Academy.
One of her varsity coaches during her freshman and sophomore years was Georgetown-alum Melba Chambers.
"Tyshell hasn't changed much since high school, she's one of those kids that does what you ask them to do and works hard," said Chambers. "Watching her now is amazing because she still has the same intensity on the court. She wants to be the best she can be and that trait has been there since day one."
As she continued to build her game, college coaches took notice. Chambers contacted an old friend who served as an assistant at Georgetown, Natasha Adair, then an assistant at Wake Forest.
Adair began recruiting King and built a relationship with both her and her basketball mentor, her father Freddie King.
"Because of Coach Chambers, I've watched and known Tyshell since she was in the 10th grade," said Adair. "When we recruited her at Wake Forest, it was just a family atmosphere with her. She was her father's pride and joy and he asked the right questions. How can you be a role model for my daughter and how can you expand her game as well as her personal growth?"
King felt the same way.
"She was like a mother figure to me back then and she still is," said King. "She's so inspirational and motivational. I remember her coming to games and my father would be sitting directly behind her talking to her. I would be peeking over at her and she would give me facial expressions or signals cheering me on."
King committed early to Wake Forest, excited to be playing for someone she felt so close to, with that factor outweighing the distance from her hometown.
However, in March, 2012 Adair called with some difficult news. She had accepted the head coaching position at College of Charleston and would be leaving Wake Forest.
"It was devastating when I had to tell her that I was moving on, but to know Tyshell and how strong she is as a person, she was happy for me," said Adair.
King reassessed her early commitment, even visiting College of Charleston, but decided to stay closer to home where her father could come to her games, eventually choosing Georgetown and coming in as a ninth-ranked recruiting class in the country.
Once again, however, her plans would be altered as her father tragically passed away in September 2012.
"When I heard about her father, the first thing I asked it where is Tyshell and how is she doing? I needed to talk to her," said Adair. "I had the chance to go to the funeral and I went to the family house afterwards and just hugged her and told her it was going to be okay."
King pulled herself together and came to Georgetown during a tumultuous freshman season that saw changes among the coaching staff and members of the team. All the while, she worked hard to better her game. She appeared in 28 games with four starts and averaged 1.8 ppg.
This spring, King walked into the interview room where she would meet one of the new head coaching candidates. There sat Adair, the coach she had wanted to play for all along.
"I remember seeing her face when I walked in for the interview and it was almost as if she had seen a ghost," said Adair.
Adair brought in two former Hoyas on her staff including Chambers who had coached King years before.
"Everything she's been through has fueled her even more," said Chambers. "She has that want-to-be-great mentality and nothing is going to stop her whether it's on the basketball court or off the basketball court."
The team has only been together for a few months, but already King has shown her value to the coaching staff being named a summer captain.
"She's the same person here that she was when she recruited me," said King. "I'm going to work hard regardless of who's coaching, but I'm glad it's Coach A and Coach Melba. Them being here makes me want to work that much harder because I know they have my back and I definitely have theirs."
As the Adair era begins, King will be a key part of the team this season fulfilling something that was put into motion so many years ago.
"I'm a believer that things happen for a reason, and we hit it off from day one," said Adair. "There has to be a reason that we were all planted in her life. She's so full of energy and so full of life. When everything came to fruition, she told me that her dad brought me to her. And to know that makes it an honor to coach her."