Moffat County’s Cayden King follows dream, signs to play for Mesa hoops team

Moffat County senior Cayden King is joined by parents Diane and Rich and coach Eric Hamilton Wednesday, Nov. 9 after signing her letter of intent to play basketball for Colorado Mesa University.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

High school student-athletes across the country put pen to paper for National Signing Day on Wednesday, Nov. 9, to compete in their favorite sports at the college level.

Moffat County High School was no exception.

Cayden King inked a letter of intent to play for Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball next year. The Bulldogs senior said the NCAA Division II school in Grand Junction seemed like a perfect fit for several reasons, one of which is its proximity to the Western Slope.

Moffat County senior Cayden King signs her letter of intent to play basketball for Colorado Mesa University on Wednesday, Nov. 9.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

“I went on the visit in September, and I really loved it there,” King said. “The biggest thing for me was that I get to stay close to home. This way all my friends and family can come see me there.”

Just as important is the Mavericks’ intensity under coach Taylor Wagner.

“I love their program because they’ve built something great there,” King said. “I love the coaches, the girls there are really competitive and I’m very excited to play at the next level.”

A solid academic performance means she’ll be going to CMU on scholarship with plans to study chemistry and later go into chemical engineering.

“I’ve always been pretty fond of math and science, so I thought that’d be a good path for me,” King said.

King was joined by parents Rich and Diane and Moffat County girls hoops coach Eric Hamilton, as well as fellow students.

Moffat County’s Cayden King and her family wear Colorado Mesa University and offer up a plate of cupcakes in Maverick colors following Cayden’s signing of her letter of intent for CMU basketball.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

“It’s been a goal for her for a really long time,” Diane said. “She’s had a couple hurdles along the way, but she just keeps chugging along and taking the opportunities as they come along.”

King was an immediate sensation as a freshman in 2019, quickly becoming a starter for the varsity team and eventually leading the program in total points for the season. An ankle injury as a sophomore made things tougher and King missed a few weeks of play, though she still was among the Bulldogs’ top scorers and their best blocker that year. As a junior, King experienced an ACL injury two games into the schedule and missed the rest of the season, as well as all of the track and field season, as she went through physical therapy.

With a knee brace, King was able to add some power to the tail end of the Bulldogs volleyball season this year.

Hamilton had no trouble recalling how many basketball games the young athlete missed the past two years, because he knew not competing was the most painful thing for her.

Moffat County’s Cayden King powers through the Steamboat Springs defense in a 2021 basketball game.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

“Twenty-six games she’s missed — games she would have been a starter. That’s a lot,” he said. “She could have just said, ‘I’m done,’ but she’s always hung in there. She’s worked really hard on her rehab. I don’t think she could give up on her dream. As a freshman, that’s all she could talk about.”

King said the injuries she’s overcome were all part of the pursuit of college ball, which she kept in mind during her recovery.

“It definitely motivated me even more,” she said. “I’m really excited for this season coming up with all my friends. I think it’ll be a really good one.”

Moffat County’s Sadie Smilanich, Lizzy LeWarne, Cayden King and Alexis Jones gather for a group shot following King’s signing of her letter of intent to play basketball for Colorado Mesa University.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

Her mother added that King’s performance on the court is bolstered by the people all around her.

“Everybody here in Moffat County has been really supportive. That makes a big difference when you always have the support of your teammates and coaches and teachers and community behind you,” Diane said.

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