WOOD RIVER JCT. — In the college basketball recruiting game, the junior year is the most important year of the process.
Colleges can't wait until the senior season unfolds to determine who fits into their plans.
For Chariho High's Levi King, who had a strong senior season, that worked against his chances of moving to the next level.
"Everything happened in the season too late," said King, a 6-foot-6, 205-pound forward. "I had a few different ways I could go. I looked at St. Andrew's [prep school], but their team was full. My AAU coach [Jay Abate] recommended Woodstock."
So all was not lost for King — he will play a season at Woodstock (Conn.) Academy for one of its two prep teams next season. He will be there just one year.
Then he will see what opportunities present themselves.
"I always dreamed of going to a Division I school," King said. "I thought it was something that was in my range. But I developed too late in my high school career for that now.
"I think one more year of skill development and getting stronger and faster will push me to the edge of where I want to be for my college career."
Woodstock is coached by Jacque Rivera. Last season's Woodstock Gold team finished 29-8 and qualified for the National Prep School Championship.
Rivera previously coached at MacDuffie School in Granby, Mass. UConn's James Bouknight, Wake Forest's Ismael Massoud and Omari Spellman, who played at Villanova and is now with the Minnesota Timberwolves, played at MacDuffie during Rivera's time there.
Seven former Woodstock players are currently on the University of Massachusetts roster, including T.J. Weeks, who excelled at Bishop Hendricken. Joe Moon also went from Woodstock to Bryant University this season.
King averaged 24.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game for the Chargers this past season. He scored 554 points and had 269 rebounds, the most points by a Chariho player in at least 20 years.
"I need to get better at ball handling and 3-point shooting. Those are the two main things," King said. "I also need to improve my pull-up jumper."
King has confidence in his ability to see the floor and maintain his composure.
If not for the coronavirus pandemic, King would have played AAU basketball on weekends and continued following a workout program.
"It's really difficult to find a place to play," King said. "I play with my older brother and my dad helps me with shooting. I'm happy to have that, but it's frustrating to know I can't see friends and play with them."
King said he's learned a lot during his time at Chariho.
"Chariho is a very social place," he said. "Being able to connect with people and just the overall experience has been great. Coach [Corey] Downey has helped me improve a lot as a player and as a person. I think Chariho has put me in a good place as a person."
King is in the drafting and engineering program at the Chariho tech school, but said his career plans are uncertain.
King said his best advice to future Chargers would be to put in the work.
"It's gonna be hard. Coach is not easy," he said. "But he's doing it for the betterment of your game. If you really want to stand out, always push yourself no matter the pain. You have to work through adversity and persevere. And you have to put in time by yourself, not just in practice."
King and his senior classmates will miss out on graduation, prom and so many other activities.
"It's really said to see. I grew up watching my older siblings graduate and I went to some of their activities," he said. "To have it taken away and not be able to have it is tough. I love every part of my senior class. It's a great, close-knit group."