Valerie King grew up in a Washington Court House and played college basketball just 90 minutes from home at the University of Cincinnati, so eventual career opportunities in California, Greece and New Mexico exceeded her wildest expectations.
She never imagined she'd become a college basketball coach, either. She's done that for 10 years and counting.
"I couldn't have dreamed any of it, to tell you the truth," King said recently from Albuquerque, where she's an assistant coach for the University of New Mexico women's basketball team.
King's circuitous route to New Mexico started after her Hall of Fame career with the Bearcats from 2001-04. As a standout guard, her quiet intensity and elite accuracy were difficult for opponents to derail. Her perimeter shooting skills were practically legendary.
King, 35, still ranks in the NCAA women's basketball records' Top 25 for most made 3-pointers in a career (338).
She was part of UC's last great days in Conference USA. Under coach Laurie Pirtle, the Bearcats posted a combined 87-39 record during King's tenure and played in two NCAA tournaments. King's last NCAA tournament game, a 71-57 loss to Arkansas at Fifth Third Arena in 2003, remains the program's most recent foray into the Big Dance.
King's 2,156 career points still rank second in program annals and her name is scattered throughout the UC record book. She's No. 1 in career free-throw percent (86.6) and 3-point field goal percent (39.9). Her 46 points against Charleston Southern in 2003 stand as a single-game record.
King played with Debbie Merrill and K.B. Sharp, Carolyn Alexander and Anne Stephens. There are so many great memories at UC, King said, that it's hard to single out just one.
"I remember the day-to-day and getting through everything. Making the NCAA tournament and getting to host it at Cincinnati my junior year was great," King said. "Other than the times that you get to spend with your teammates, those are the things that stand out the most."
After college, King signed with the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs as a free agent but was cut soon after. She returned home, worked out all summer and seized a chance to play professional basketball in Athens, Greece, in 2004-05.
The team culture was as big an adjustment as life abroad.
"It was really different. They were trying to make me into a point guard and that's not my forte whatsoever," King said, laughing. "They were all older, more mature women that were playing. The best players play over there. It was an eye-opening experience, but it was a great experience. I'm glad I did it."
After another stint in Ohio, King needed a change. That's when Mike Bradbury -- a former UC and Xavier assistant women's basketball coach, and the person who recruited King to play for the Bearcats -- helped her land a graduate-assistant role at Louisville.
"That year helped me see that I couldn't be away from basketball, so it was great. I did a lot of film and stuff that year and it kind of set me on that track of Xs and Os," King said.
One year later, Bradbury was hired as Morehead State's women's hoops coach. He brought on King as an assistant coach. She has been with Bradbury's staffs ever since, from Morehead (three years) and Wright State (six years) to New Mexico (one year).
She does a little bit of everything with the Lobos, from recruiting to scouting, and loves it. Assistant coaching at the college level suits her.
But what about head coaching? Is that in the cards?
"I don't think so. I don't know," King said. "I don't think I have the personality for (being a head coach). I love being an assistant coach and doing everything behind the scenes. I'd rather have someone else be the face of it."
King returned to UC in 2010 for her UC Hall of Fame Induction, but her basketball schedule and distance from Ohio have made return visits during basketball season difficult. She keeps an eye on the program from afar and is eager to see the $86 million renovation of Fifth Third Arena.
King, who once attempted a school-record 17 threes in a game in 2002 (and who made a UC-best eight 3-pointers in a different game that same year), enjoys helping current college players find their best shots now.
In her transformation from a college player to a professional player to a college assistant coach, King said she gained valuable insight that helps her now. She has a great appreciation for all the things UC's coaching staff did to make her basketball seasons great.
"As a player, you don't see the hours and hours that coaches put in, watching film and trying to get the team prepared for an opponent," King said. "It's crazy. You don't know until you're in it."