King me: After being told he’d never play again, McClure pursues dream

Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

For Baylor men’s basketball King McClure, life is more than just a game of basketball and statistics.

After being told he would never play again due to a heart condition, freshman guard King McClure found comfort from several people, but it was his faith and parents that became his bedrock during the tough times.

“I was devastated when they told me I couldn’t play basketball anymore.” McClure said. “I cried and I cried, like my dreams were over. I believe that God really helped me. I was praying every night, just asking him, what do I need to do, how can I take my situation and turn it into a positive instead of looking at it as a negative.”

What could have been the end to a great athlete’s career and story, turned out to just be the beginning.

As a young boy growing up in Dallas, McClure always had the heart of warrior. His parents, Leroy and Yvette McClure, knew early on that there was something special about their son.

With a basketball in his hand practically at birth, McClure’s parents said that their son would dribble a ball around the house and would dunk on the little basket that was placed on the door.

However, McClure said it was his father who really pushed him to be the best that he could be after even making an actual court at their home for him to practice.

“It was really my dad. My parents put a little goal in the house, and every time I shot the ball it would ding,” McClure said. “They got me that when I was two and ever since then I would just keep a basketball in my hand.”

McClure’s father recalled a moment when his son was part of a league in kindergarten where each player had to sit out at least one quarter. It was also the day that he realized the jersey number that he wanted, one that continues to stick with him to this day – 22.

“There was a time that I didn’t let him start because he didn’t do his chores and I was the coach. So King didn’t play the first quarter,” Leroy said. “We were behind 7-0, and King went in and in the end we won 22-21. At the end of the game, the score people came over and said, ‘Did you know that No. 10 scored all 22 of your points, and that is when he began with the No. 22.

“He was very competitive, never wanted to lose. He went out in that second quarter and took over with energy that no one else had. That’s when we found out that he loved the game and was very good at it. From that moment, we kept pushing and motivating him to continue working hard.”

After playing at the competitive level during his teenage years, McClure attended Triple A Academy in Dallas and played under coach Tim Singleton.

While there, McClure averaged at least 21 points in all four seasons. Though the statistics were impressive, that is when McClure began to face adversity.

“He was and is a remarkable athlete and it was an honor to be able to coach such and amazing athlete as him,” Singleton said. “He never complained, but instead continued working hard through all adversity.”

King was no stranger to injury as he dislocated his kneecaps in both knees within the span of two seasons in high school.

“He wasn’t able to play in any playoff games because he had to spend the summers recovering,” Leroy said. “His senior year, he had probably one of the best senior seasons of any high school player. He led the country in four categories, but it was a year that he was injury free, but then June 8 came.”

For many families, June 8 was just any other day in the year, but for the McClure’s it was a day that would put their faith to the test.

An echo-cardiogram and EKG performed on McClure that day revealed that he had a hyper-trophic cardiomyopathy, which is a condition that affects the muscle of the heart. McClure was told that he would never be able to play the sport again, but he refused to believe it.

“If I didn’t have my faith I probably would have given up,” McClure said. “My mom and dad told me that I would be fine and that my dreams would continue, just not give up. I didn’t give up, and I’m here right now.”

During this time, the McClure family leaned on God, and held steadfast to their hearts Proverbs 21:1.

“We grabbed on to a chapter in the Bible, Proverbs 21:1 that says, ‘A king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord,’” McClure’s father said. “That gave us a lot of confidence that God wasn’t through with King. Sometimes we have to go through all these adversities to appreciate what is going on and it is going to make us stronger.”

“It was devastating initially, but we are people of faith and we know that God is in control of everything. We didn’t feel like King was done, we just didn’t know how it was going to turn out. We started praying, fasting and King was convinced even when we were in Seattle that he said, ‘In six months, I’ll be playing again.’”

After securing a spot to see Dr. Michael Ackerman, an HCM specialist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., results came back and McClure finally heard the words that he had waited for. He could play again.

“I was really more than happy. I was enthusiastic,” McClure said. “I was hopping up and down. I was really happy to play and I couldn’t wait to get back. I got to the gym as soon as I got back to Waco.”

As McClure rejoined the team, he said he was initially unsure of where he would fit in, but after practicing a few times, he felt like he had found his place.

“Coach [Scott] Drew actually sees that I can help the team,” McClure said. “When I first got back off my heart problem, I was curious about if I would really help the team and if they needed me, but now I see that I can help the team. I can impact the team on the offense and defense. Seeing more minutes is a blessing. Going from not being able to play, to playing more minutes than an average freshman is really just a blessing in disguise.”

McClure’s teammates have also seen the dedication and drive that he has.

“He is definitely not taking anything for granted. King is dedicated and makes the most of each day,” said sophomore forward Jonathan Motley.

Now as a freshman business major in college, it seems McClure has found his calling. As the lights come on at the Ferrell Center each day, there are more than just statistics left on the floor for McClure.

Sweat, tears, frustration and hope are left. McClure has a bigger picture in his head, and he is playing for more than just himself.

“I learned that I can’t take the sport for granted,” McClure said. “Any day, any moment it can be gone. I think it made me want to work harder and gave me something to strive for, because now I want to play for people with my heart condition so they can see that its possible. Just because people say you have a heart condition you don’t have to give up, you can keep fighting and pursuing your dreams like I did.”

“[God] showed me that I was not done yet, and, as a result of him letting me play, I feel like I have a story there that I can relate to the world that I can just display to everybody, and show Him through me.”