Teams that have tried to crash the boards against the CSUN women’s basketball team since the fall of 2003 have had to worry greatly about a 5-foot-9 guard out of Lynwood High School who has been just as relentless on the boards as any other player in the Big West Conference.
“I would say rebounding is a hard thing to drill,” head coach Staci Schulz said. “Rebounding is not much (of) a skill, it’s just who’s going to decide to do it, and who’s going to work hard to get it done, and that’s LaJoyce King.”
King, who is currently in her fourth and final season on the Matador squad, has averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds through her first three years at CSUN. King has also grabbed 531 rebounds in the three years, and that number figures to increase as this season goes along.
King was born in Long Beach and raised in Compton. Though Compton is well-known as a rough neighborhood, King said she never encountered any problems living there.
“It pretty much to me was like living anywhere else,” King said. “No matter where (you are), you’re going to have to watch out where you go, so it was just the same for me. I think I came out OK.”
King said she started playing the game in middle school, where she worked with the junior program at Lynwood High School. In 1999, King arrived at Lynwood High which according to King, was opening up a brand-new campus at the time.
“Everything was new,” King said. “We had a nice gym, nice classes and computers. It was like a step forward.”
At Lynwood, King was part of one of the best teams in the state. The Lynwood Knights were San Gabriel League Champions from 2000 to 2003 and won CIF Championships in 2001, 2002 and 2003, and also won the state championship in 2002 and 2003. The 2002 team went undefeated in King’s first season on the varsity team and lost only once her senior season in 2003. Schulz, previously an assistant under then-head coach Tammy Holder, first saw King play during the 2003 CIF Regional playoffs at the Walter Pyramid at Long Beach.
“(She’s a) hard worker, just like she is (now), very tenacious,” Schulz recalls.
King was recruited by schools such as Cal State Dominguez Hills, but chose Cal State Northridge primarily because of location, the coaching staff and also because CSUN had her major, which is apparel design.
While most student athletes would have trouble adjusting to living away from home for the first time, King actually looked forward to the challenge of being on her own for the first time, though she still got a little homesick.
“I still went home almost every weekend, so it wasn’t like I was too far away,” King said. “I don’t think I had a chance to really get homesick.”
One key factor in King’s adjustment to CSUN was current teammate Jazelle Burries. Burries played with King at Lynwood High and both came to CSUN in the fall of 2003.
“It definitely helped having her because that was somebody I already knew,” King said of Burries. “I could talk to one person if I felt uncomfortable at times.”
King was among six new freshmen who joined the Matadors in 2003-2004. King’s freshman year was an adjustment year, as she averaged 6.9 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. King, though, did appear in all 26 games that season and made 21 starts. King scored 21 points against San Diego State on Dec. 6.
“It was definitely a different level of basketball,” King said. “When you get to college, everyone’s good. It’s just a little more fast-paced and I had to do a little adapting.”
That adaptation came into place the next season, as King raised her numbers significantly in 2004-2005, averaging 12 points, which was second on the team, and 7.3 rebounds a game. King grabbed a then-career high 19 rebounds in a 76-68 overtime win against UC Davis on Feb. 26 and had six games where she posted double digits in rebounds. The Matadors also improved in the standings in 2005, going from a 6-20 season, 5-13 in Big West Conference play in 2004, to 18-11, 11-7 in the conference and earning the Matadors’ first trip to the Anaheim Convention Center for the Big West Tournament. The Matadors defeated UC Riverside in the quarterfinals 62-58 in overtime before losing to conference powerhouse UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals.
The success of 2004-2005 created high expectations heading to the 2005-2006 season. Those feelings, though, quickly evaporated when star player Ofa Tulikihihifo suffered a stress fracture of her left tibia before the start of the season, an injury that eventually led to Tulikihihifo red-shirting the season.
King was one of the players who picked up the slack in Tulikihihifo’s absence, averaging 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds a game. Though the Matadors struggled without Tulikihihifo, falling to 10-20, 5-9 in the Big West, the Matadors chose precisely the right time to catch fire: the Big West Tournament. Seeded seventh in the tournament, the Matadors upset sixth-seeded UC Irvine and third-seeded Cal State Fullerton to set up a semifinal rematch with UC Santa Barbara.
King had 11 boards against UC Irvine and 13 against Fullerton, but against the Gauchos, King laid it all on the line. Crashing the boards with a vengeance, King finished with 19 rebounds, which tied for the school record. Twelve of King’s 19 boards were on the offensive end, which set a new school record. The Gauchos, though, still found a way to survive, pulling out a 66-61 win that ended the Matadors’ season two wins shy of its ultimate goal of the Big West Title.
“We all wanted to step up, so that’s all I was trying to do is step up to help us win,” King said.
Just like the end of the 2005 season did for the start of last season, the Matadors’ late season surge has created high expectations for this year. The Matadors were picked to finish fourth in the Big West preseason polls behind Santa Barbara, Long Beach State and the new conference champion, UC Riverside.
King has done her best to contribute, averaging 11.9 points and 9.1 boards in seven games this season. King has been just as active on the glass this season as she was that final game against Santa Barbara last season. King grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds against Santa Clara on Dec. 2, setting a new school record. Fifteen of King’s 21 rebounds came on the defensive end, which also set a new school mark. King posted double-doubles in points and rebounds during a three-game stretch from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5. Her hard work has not gone unnoticed by Schulz.
“Over the last three years, she’s always been the player being around the ball,” Schulz said. “She’s always around the ball, that’s why she’s a small player or a big guard that gets a lot of rebounds. That’s why she’s had some of the rebounding records that she’s had so far.”
CSUN, though, has struggled again to start the season. The Matadors are currently 3-7 on the season while having to combat a tough schedule. King and the Matadors hope to turn things around when they host the Montana Grizzlies on Dec. 17 at 4 p.m., followed by another home game, this one against the 18th ranked team in the nation, the Michigan State Spartans, on Friday, Dec. 22 at 2 p.m.