Josey King, a 13-year-old Craig Middle School seventh-grader, practices free throws Friday at CMS. King finished second in the Colorado state Elks Lodge Hoops Shoot tournament Feb. 25 in Salida after taking first place in the local and district stages.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Josey King, a 13-year-old Craig Middle School seventh-grader, practices free throws Friday at CMS. King finished second in the Colorado state Elks Lodge Hoops Shoot tournament Feb. 25 in Salida after taking first place in the local and district stages.

Craig youth finishes second in state free throw competition

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Craig youth finishes second in state free throw competition

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“Free throws can be game-winning, and if you don’t make them, it could lose the game for your team. Competing in the Hoops Shoot competitions helped with the pressure you feel at the free throw line, and in a big game, I can go to the line and not feel as nervous.”

— Josey King, a 13-year-old Craig Middle School seventh-grader, about how important free throws are in a basketball game

Josey King has earned a trip to the Colorado state Elks Lodge Hoop Shoot tournament the last three years and four trips to state overall.

The Hoop Shoot competition consists of two rounds of free throws, with each player taking 25 shots.

King, a 13-year-old Craig Middle School seventh-grader, competed in her last Hoop Shoot competition this year, taking first in the local tournament Dec. 17, 2011, at Sandrock Elementary School and first at the district tournament Jan. 15 in Rifle, her third straight first-place finish at districts.

And, in her final year, King finished second in the state competition Feb. 25 in Salida.

“It felt really good,” King said of her finish. “I think I could have done a little better, but I am pretty proud because of all the girls who competed this year.”

More than 900 players started out competing in the girls 12- and 13-year-old division at the local stage.

At the state level, six girls vied for first place.

King made 18 of 25 free throws, falling short of the personal best of 21 she posted at the local level this year.

King said she has played basketball for years, starting because her sister, Ashley, and father were interested in the game.

She began in the Craig Parks and Recreation league and currently plays for the CMS team.

“I like how intense and unpredictable a basketball game can be,” she said. “A game can change so fast and you have to be ready to adjust.”

The free throw competition, King said, helps her in a crucial part of the game.

“Free throws can be game-winning, and if you don’t make them, it could lose the game for your team,” she said. “Competing in the Hoops Shoot competitions helped with the pressure you feel at the free throw line, and in a big game, I can go to the line and not feel as nervous.”

King said she practices free throws during and after every practice, and also at home.

Her family recently built a new half-court basketball court outside their home.

And, whether with a family member, teammate or by herself, King said she usually tries to shoot about 500 free throws a week.

“At the competitions, there are about 400 to 500 people in the stands, so I need to be able to handle a lot of pressure,” she said. “In a game, there is a lot more running and you are more tired, so I feel more confident having practiced so much with my free throws.”

If she misses a free throw, King said she tries to forget about it so it doesn’t affect the rest of her game.

“I have to erase it and just think about the next shot,” she said. “If I think too much, then I start messing up a lot more and missing a lot more shots.”

After her eighth-grade season, King said she plans to make the move up to Moffat County High School girls basketball.

When she walks up to the line at MCHS, she will spin the ball out, bounce it twice and then shoot, feeling confident in her shot.

“Free throws kind of come natural to me now,” she said. “I kind of get in a groove and just keep doing what I have to time and time again.”

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