Taylor King does not know quite how to feel about Thursday night's NCAA East Regional semifinal game between Villanova, his new team, and Duke, his former team.
Yes, the game figures to be fun. He'll get to watch guys from his 2007-08 freshman class at Duke like Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith go against his new teammates. But it's not going to be easy.
King is sitting out this season as a transfer and has not been eligible to play. Worse yet, under NCAA rules, he cannot be included in Villanova's official traveling party for the trip to Boston and must find his way there at his own expense.
"It's probably the most difficult thing I've ever had to deal with," King, a 6-foot-6 forward, said yesterday. "I'll be in the arena, but I won't be on the bench, and I won't be able to play against my old team.
"But I'm here with my new family, my new team, and I'm excited and ready to watch us play them. I want us to play the best we can and win."
Villanova coach Jay Wright said he did not allow King to travel to New York for the Big East Conference tournament earlier this month out of concern that he would miss too many classes. This time, after hearing an earnest appeal from King, he gave his permission.
"I don't know if we were playing in Boston if he would have spent his own money to get up there to see anybody else," Wright said. "But he said to me, 'Coach, I've got to get up there.' I said he could come up the day of the game. But he's still got to drive himself up there."
King, a 2007 McDonald's all-American during his senior year at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., averaged 5.9 points and 2.0 rebounds and knocked down 43 three-point baskets in his only season at Duke. He announced last April that he was transferring to Villanova.
He said he left on good terms with Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"He wished me the best of luck, I wished him the best of luck and everything, and that was it," King said. "We parted ways. Duke was a great spot, loved it, but I'm better here, and it's a great family."
King said that he stays in touch with Smith and that both are excited about the game. He called the 6-foot-8, 235-pound Singler "an all-around beast."
"They're all my guys, and I'm rooting for them in the long run," King said, "but I'm not rooting for them on Thursday."