No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path. Taylor King can relate to these wise words.
It's early in 2012 and King sits in an apartment, estranged from his family, dealing with depression and finding himself taking solace in drugs in a bid to ease the pain of his mistakes and a basketball dream turned to dust.
At just 22, former Cheshire Phoenix star King felt like he was on the basketball scrap heap. His relationship with his father Steve, who had lived vicariously through his talented son during his earlier years, had all but disappeared.
Sent home from Canada by his NBL side Quebec Kebs, King had finally hit rock bottom. The weight of expectation placed on his broad shoulders at just 14 years of age had finally taken its toll and a player for who the NBA seemed a certain destination during his high school years was now left staring into the abyss and a future unknown.
Recalled King: "We'd made the play-offs but they couldn't afford to pay me so they sent me home. That was really hard to swallow. You are home in March and everybody is playing basketball. I finally snapped and hit rock bottom.
"I turned to drugs, doing stupid stuff. I mean a lot of dumb stuff. I wasn't talking to any of my family and I was in a dark, dark place. I was majorly depressed. I was rock, rock bottom.
"I dabbled with drugs that I shouldn't have. My Dad and I weren't talking at all and my Mom would barely speak to me. It was tough."
At 14, King had the world in his hands. The Huntington Beach native made national headlines by becoming the youngest basketball player ever to commit to a Division One school after pledging his future to UCLA.
A phenomenal high school career at Mater Dei under lauded coach Gary McKnight only added to the hype surrounding King, hype that was very real.
But one NAIA school, two NCAA Division One schools and three failed drugs test later, King was finding himself cast as the face of a dream turned sour. A cautionary tale.
His father Steve, who toiled alcoholism in his younger years and has been sober since 1981 after checking himself into Alcoholics Anonymous, knew all too well about the vices that can rip apart a family and reached out to his son in a bid to get him back on the straight and narrow, relegating the importance of basketball for the first time in a long time.
"Around my birthday in 2012 my Dad called me and we had a heart to heart," recalled King.
"I said to him 'I need help'. I didn't need to go to rehab but needed to get out of where I was. It was at the point where I didn't have the money to put gas in my car to get out of where I was.
"My Dad got me a job working for him and I started living with my Mom again. My Dad was Dad again, not my coach or my manager, just Dad. He said he was over the whole micro-managing my life thing and was just concerned about my well being. That is when our relationship turned. It was a life-changing conversation for me."
There are countless tales across all sports about players who are touted as potential superstars but never realise that potential, but the hype around King was real – very real.
The youngest of four siblings, King hailed from an athletic family.
"My dad played basketball at Northern Arizona, my Mom was a swimmer, I had three older sisters. My older sister was a college basketball player, middle sister an All American softball player and the youngest sister was a swimmer.
"My Dad put a ball in my hand when I was like two or three. I was a sports junkie when I was a kid and I was good at baseball, basketball and (American) football. When I got a little older, though, about nine, I realised that I was really good at basketball and I was a big boy so I kind of put all my energy into that.
"I had a trainer, joined a club when I was in about fifth grade and got into organised basketball. My Dad was my coach for a little while. I was pretty skilled at a young age and then I just kept getting better.
"When I got to eighth grade and was about 13 was when I got to another level. I was playing on the 17-and-under team and I was playing against sophomores and freshmen in high school and I shot up to about 6ft 5ins and that is when my jump shot started coming.
"I would shoot from long range, be one of those snipers who could make shots from a crazy long way.
"It got real when I played at the ABCD Camp in Teaneck, New Jersey. The seniors there were guys like Dwight Howard, Sebastian Telfair, Shaun Livingston, Josh Smith, JR Smith. All the guys you see in the NBA now were the guys I was competing against. I was probably one of the best shooters at the camp and me and OJ Mayo both made the underclassmen All Star game."
Nationally known and making history - at 14
By now, King was on the national radar and knew the importance of finding himself a good high school to carry on his basketball education and continue his rise.
After much deliberation, King decided to attend Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California. The basketball programme at the school was highly acclaimed and headed up by coach Gary McKnight, the most winningest varsity basketball coach in California state history.
King would soon make a piece of basketball history for himself, becoming the youngest basketball player ever to commit to a major Division One college – he was just 14.
"I needed to find out which high school was the best to go to and Mater Dei was the best in Orange County and maybe even California in my opinion," said King.
"I went there on a visit to check in out and talk to Gary McKnight – the best coach I've ever played for," recalled King, who currently resides in Chester.
"When I was in the eighth grade I took a trip to UCLA. The coach at the time was Ben Howland. I went there for an unofficial visit and I was told that they were interested in me and wanted to sign me. I was in eighth grade and had four years of high school left! I ended up committing and was the youngest player to ever commit to a Division One school at the age of 14.
"The hype after that was just crazy. All these shoe companies were pursuing me and was going into high school not worrying about college, I already had that sewn up. I was just concentrating on getting better. I wanted to keep improving.
"At the time I was the number one ranked player in the country going into the freshman year at high school. I was ranked above guys who are NBA superstars right now."
King found life tough on the court during his first year of high school, though. Burdened with the weight of expectation and the glare of the media spotlight keen to keep tabs on the new boy wonder, King found that some of the senior players were less than pleased to have the prodigious young talent taking the limelight.
Recalled King: "It was tough in my freshman year, averaging about 14-points a game. I had some riff raff on my team with team-mates.
"They didn't like all the hype I was getting because they were seniors and they thought it was their time. This was Mater Dei High School, one of the most prestigious high schools in the country.
"I was all over the media and my face was in the newspapers. It was a crazy experience, no doubt, but my high school coach, my trainer and my Dad would keep me grounded. I had a good support system.
The burden of expectation
With so much expected for someone so young, King was unable to live a normal life. The cracks soon began to show.
"At times I would get out of control. I was a 15-year-old kid, though," said King, now 28.
"The burden was suffocating at times. I wasn't able to live the live of a normal high school student. I wasn't able to be a teenager and make mistakes and get in trouble. If I got in trouble it would be national news. When I committed to UCLA it was on ESPN that night. It was a little overwhelming and found it difficult to deal with at times.
But the following year would see King start to deliver on his promise and thrust him back into forefront of the mind of every college recruiter and scout from California to New York.
Gone was the large core of the team made up of seniors, heading off to embark on college careers of their own, allowing King to finally assume the role as leader of the team and poster boy for high school basketball in the state.
Recalled King: "When that senior class graduated that is when a weight was carried off my shoulders. It was like saying here's the keys to the team. I was able to be me and got better as a result, was able to take the ball to the basket more and create my own shot and not just be stand-still shooter.
"I went from averaging 14 points a game to averaging 28 points a game. I was LA Times Player of the Year and runner-up in the Orange County Player of the Year.
"When it was all said and done my high school career ended up being one of the greatest in California history. I was third of all time in scoring and fifth in rebounding."
King was a hot commodity when his high school career came to an end, a reputation only heightened by his selection for the 2007 McDonald's All American game, which showcases the cream of America's high school talent. It was a game loaded with future NBA stars, with Blake Griffin, James Harden, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley all sharing the hardwood with King.
He was also the recipient of the coveted California 'Mr Basketball' Award in 2007, handed to the finest high school player in the state. Previous winners of the accolade included names such as Jason Kidd, Paul Pierce and Tyson Chandler, while players such as Kawhi Leonard, Jrue Holiday and Aaron Gordon have won it since King.
Having committed to UCLA at just 14 years old, the services of King were coveted by almost every top college in America. Doors had opened up for the 18-year-old and he was determined to tread his own path after having his life 'micro managed' up to that point by his father.
"He micro-managed my high school career," he said.
"He knew the potential that I had and that I was way better than he ever was. He knew that and he was trying to push me to be the best I could be. It was way too much.
"After high school I decided to de-commit from UCLA. I was in eighth grade and wanted to experience being recruited by all these schools and really weigh up my options.
"Once I did that then the schools came coming. Kansas, North Carolina, Syracuse, Duke, everyone you could think of. I had letters beyond letters beyond letters.
"It was the summer before my senior year in high school I took an unofficial visit to Syracuse, Gonzaga, USC and North Carolina and then Coach K (Hall of Fame Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski) called and that was like, wow. That was a big thing for me. He came to my house and I eventually signed with Duke, it was just awesome. A dream come true.
"It was definitely in my head to get as far out of California as possible. That was one of the reasons. Of course going to Duke, getting a Duke education and being a Duke basketball player was all important to play for a Hall of Famer coach. I wanted to break away, though."
But King's best laid plans didn't pan out the way he expected and his father, keen to keep an eye on his talented son, decided to rent an apartment close to the Duke campus in Durham, North Carolina, in order to ensure his son stayed on the straight and narrow.
"Did it work? Not as I planned it," said King.
"My Dad ended up getting an apartment out in Durham, but I wanted to be free. I was a college student athlete and didn't have to check in with my Dad or my Mom all the time.
"I didn't have to be home at a certain time and I had a lot of freedom that I had never experienced before but that proved to be one of my downfalls. Having that much freedom wasn't good for me."
Steve King's plan to keep his son on the path to NBA stardom were, though, already proving problematic as King junior began to dabble in the vices that would eventually sound the death knell for his college career.
Before he even started his Duke scholarship, disaster struck for King.
"I was McDonald's All American. All those guys in my class; Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, if you did anything it was going to be magnified.
"I was ranked above Blake Griffin and James Harden, they were guys on my All American team. I played with James Harden since a young age and Kevin Love has been one of my best friends since we played together in fifth grade. All these guys were good friends of mine. If what happened to me had happened to them then the outcome would have been the same.
"Towards the end of my high school career I experimented with some things. I smoke a bit of marijuana in high school, like any other 18-year-old.
"But at Duke they don't do stuff like that and I got caught up. We got nabbed with a drug test in the summer time and I failed that and I was in the dog house from day one."
"When I failed the drug test, that was one of the most difficult moments of my life. Coach K made me call my father and tell him. Calling a Dad who has been sober for what is now 35 years and tell him I failed a drug test, that was tough.
"Part of me felt like I had let him down but part of me was thinking that 'it's because of you that I'm doing this', 'it's because of you I was smoking weed, partying and drinking'. It's because I never got to, because he was so overbearing. That's how I felt at the time."
But while he toiled with off-court issues that threatened to derail him, King was still able to make an impression on the floor, a lights out shooter who endeared himself to the passionate Blue Devil fanbase. But his own personal demons were never too far away.
He recalled: "I paid my dues and was disciplined and did what I needed to to play for that season. I was averaging about 14 points-a-game off the bench and had a season-high 27 against Eastern Kentucky off the bench.
"I had 20 points against Wisconsin live on ESPN so things were OK on the court, but off the court I was still experiencing what being a 19-year-old freshman in college was like.
"The things I did off the court did not put me in a good position to be successful on the floor.
"Do I regret it? Yeah. When I was in high school and looking at college I was just focusing on the quickest way to get to the NBA. I wanted to be one and done. But because I didn't get to experience those normal teenage things in high school I experienced it in college. That was my downfall."
New surroundings, same issues
After a season at Duke, King came to the realisation that maybe he wasn't the right fit for the school and that he needed to make a clean break and get a fresh start somewhere else.
He was still a player who was coveted by top colleges, although his stock had fallen somewhat. But a family tie at NCAA Division One powerhouse Villanova helped him earn a place with the Wildcats under another giant of American college basketball, head coach Jay Wright.
But having transferred, King would have to sit out the season and await his first year of eligibility the following year.
"After the Duke season I stepped back and thought I needed a fresh start and thought that maybe Duke wasn't the right spot for me," he said.
"I had family ties over at Villanova so I was able to transfer quick. I talked to Jay Wright a bunch of times and thought it was the best place to get a fresh start.
"The year I sat out my body changed completely. I worked really hard. Was I still smoking weed? Yeah. I was still getting into stupid stuff off the court.
"The thing about Villanova that was different to Duke was that I was only kid west of Philadelphia and they were all inner city kids from New York, New Jersey, and (Washington) DC.
"The year I sat out we went to the Final Four at the NCAA Tournament. I practised with that team every day and was just as much a part of that team as anybody else.
"In my first year of eligibility I was doing things off the court still that weren't good for me. In my naivety I thought that I could still do all the same things and it wouldn't really matter.
"I was getting on 21-22 years old and was thinking that I don't care what people think, I'm going to do what I want to do."
But King couldn't escape his off-court issues, issues that would soon catch up with him despite his new surroundings.
"Two weeks before the Big East Tournament at Villanova we got nabbed again with a drug test," recalled King.
"I went and told Coach (Wright) that I couldn't take the test and then I got suspended for the West Virginia. I didn't tell my father that I was suspended. It was tough as I was doing really well on the court. The NBA dream was still in my head at that time.
"When I went and told Coach (Wright) then that dream dwindled away. The first thing anyone saw when they Googled my name was 'Taylor King fails drug test', 'Taylor King leaves for personal reasons'. Everyone knows what 'personal reasons' means. It means you've done something stupid.
"After that season my thought process was that I was going to not play next year, was going to use basketball to finish the summer courses, take out student loans and get a Villanova education and go and play overseas.
"Things turned from bad to worse as I failed another drug test and that as pretty much see you later as far as Villanova was concerned."
King's bid to strike out on his own and remove himself from the shackles of overbearing parenting and a micro-managed life had backfired spectacularly.
Falling out of love with basketball
Where once a passion for basketball blazed within him, King began to feel nothing for the game that had promised to bring him so much. He headed back home to California to a broken relationship with his father and facing yet more heartache.
"I needed to go back home and surround myself with people that loved and cared about me," he said.
"That's when my family situation took a turn for the worse.
"My parents split up and it was tough to handle. It wasn't like I was a kid but I just wanted to make sure my Mom was OK. Me and my Dad weren't speaking by then.
"My passion for the game wasn't there, it had dwindled away. I didn't love basketball any more. I was at a crossroads because of all the stuff that had happened. I'd gone from McDonald's All American to failing three drug tests and not knowing what I was going to do with my life now. I'd gone to two Division One schools and still hadn't graduated.
In his mind, King was done with basketball.
But a trip back to his old high school would prove pivotal for King. An open run was being held at his old court, attended by a number of professionals including then New York Knicks player Landry Fields, and King decided to just 'run up and down'.
"I was the best player on the court," said King.
"I was killing everybody, a straight killer on the court.
"My high school coach (McKnight) brought me in after and said 'you gotta continue to play. You've got to find somewhere to play and get past this because you can play, you're still at the top of your game'.
McKnight helped King in getting connected with USC, another highly reputable school, and things were looking up until bizarre circumstances stymied his efforts at a shot of redemption.
USC were, at the time, facing the glare of the media spotlight after revelations emerged about two of its former students, current NFL star Reggie Bush and NBA player OJ Mayo.
Both athletes had come under scrutiny after accepting gifts from agents while students in the mid 2000s, a breach of NCAA rules that saw the players effectively forfeit their amateur status.
The NCAA came down hard on USC, stripping them of national football titles won in 2004 and 2005 and docking them 30 scholarships in the future. King was collateral damage.
"I was going to go to USC when Kevin O'Neill was coach there. I was signed, sealed and delivered," said King.
"The plan was to sit out for another year and then play my last year of college eligibility at USC. Then I got a call saying they can't take you for 'extenuating circumstances'."
King was in No Man's Land. The college dream looked to have withered and died. But King was determined to continue his education and continue playing basketball and finally wound up at NAIA school Concordia, just 15 minutes from his home.
But without the pressure to keep up with his academic work that he was subject to at Duke and Villanova, King struggled to motivate himself to keep up with his school work and ended up ending his college career, which had taken in three schools, without even a degree to show for his efforts, never mind a spot in the NBA Draft.
"Concordia was like 15 minutes from me. I was enjoying playing the game again. I wound up being first-team All American and runner-up for NAIA Player of the Year," he said.
"But when you go to Division One schools they make sure you get your work done. At Concordia, an NAIA school, it's not like that. I was so over school by that time and going to classes. I was over it all. I ended up not going to my finals and they dismissed me because of my grades. I was an idiot for not doing my school work.
"I was going to go to summer school and get my grades but I thought I was ready to go and make money playing basketball."
Making it as a professional
Finding work proved tough for King.
His name immediately brought up red flags with teams reluctant to touch a player with a college career such as King's, one that included three failed drug tests.
He had gone from the nation's hottest high school player to being on the basketball scrap heap, struggling to find his way in the game.
It also wasn't lost on King that many of those players who had been ranked well below him heading into college were now in the NBA, basking in superstardom earning life-changing amounts of money.
"I think about it all the time," said King.
"All those guys I played with on my McDonald's team, all those guys I played with growing up, they're all in the NBA now. I was thinking that 'I'm just as good as them."
"I was told my a good friend of mine, Sonny Vaccaro (former Nike executive and founder of the ABCD Camp), he told me that everybody has their own path and just to stay on your own path. Ever since he said that it has always stuck with me and stayed in my head.
"That NBA dream, you need to have some luck and be seen by the right people at the right time. That is unless you are like one of those guys like LeBron James, crazy talented guys who you knew would be stars. You never lose sight of it. If you are overseas and making money you are still living the dream.
"But it was extremely difficult for me after what had happened in college. The red flags were all over the place."
King did eventually find work, catching on with the London Lightning in Canada's newly formed NBL.
He would spend several months with the club before being released but was soon back in the league after signing with the Quebec Kebs.
It was his ill-fated spell with the Kebs that would provide King's moment of clarity and bring reunite him with his father.
His 'life changing' conversation with his father re-ignited King and it wasn't long before he was back chasing the professional dream.
"After about a month driving for my Dad's computer company picking up boxes around Southern California I wanted to get back on the court," said King.
"I started lifting, conditioning and working out with ex-pros. My game was better than ever and I was like 23 by then and ready to take off. But it was still tough to get a job because of all the red flags.
"I ended up going on a tour with this agency to Taiwan. We played in this pre-season tournament and was an experience and a chance to go and get seen and not have all these red flags.
"I just exploded. I was dropping like 36 points a game, every game. I was the best player on the floor every game. A team picked me up then and there.
"I had a great season, the money was great and I led the league in rebounding and scoring. It was a pretty good league, pretty reputable. This was all like five months on from me battling with depression and hitting rock bottom in my life.
"I felt like a new man, at peace with myself and on the straight and narrow. I haven't looked back since then.
"I was in Iran and Iraq for a while and made a ton of money. I played in Japan for a little bit, Mexico for a little bit and China for a little bit, I was enjoying playing professionally travelling the world and making good money.
"I've visited places around the world that most people can only dream of going, I'm extremely blessed."
Arriving at the Phoenix
It wasn't long before a rejuvenated King would make the connection that would lead to him heading to England and to the walled city of Chester, steeped in its Roman history, and a spot with British Basketball League side Cheshire Phoenix , then under the stewardship of a new American head coach, John Coffino.
"I had been at some NBA D-League try-outs to see if the NBA dream was still alive and to see if I could get picked up," said King.
"I tried out for the LA Lakers D-League team and thought I did pretty well. They wanted me to go into the draft.
"Coach Coffino was there and he thought I was one of the best players at the try-outs and we stayed in touch.
"He gave me a call while I was in China with a USA Select team in the summer. I still had that cloud over me about what had happened in college and it haunted me and stopped me getting chances at EuroLeague teams.
"The reason I came over to England was Coach Coffino and I have a lot to thank him for.
"He got me in Europe but it was tough to get into because of my past.
"I ended up killing it during my time in the BBL. I'd never been a part of a club like Cheshire before, so community based. I loved going to schools and helping to coach the kids and stuff, I'd never seen that anywhere else before."
King was a hit at Cheshire, with his deep range and passion on the court ensuring he was taken to the hearts of Phoenix fans.
He was enjoying himself on the court again, a man shaped by his experiences and the wisdom of learing from his mistakes. He even managed to find love.
"The fans were great," he said.
"The way I was able to interact with them was awesome. I made a lot of good friends here now because of how the people are here and I even found love.
"For me, coming to England was a stepping stone to go to another higher league. I loved my time at Cheshire, though, it was filled with some great memories."
From Cheshire, King headed out to Lithuania after signing with BC Nevezis, a club based in the small town of Kedainiai.
While his team may not have been the strongest, King's move to the league was a step up in the quality of competition, with the the Lithuanian Basketball League including EuroLeague powerhouse Zalgiris Kaunas, a team who King's squad famously toppled during last season.
With his season now finished, King, who splits his time between living in Chester with his girlfiend and in California with his family, is now aiming to keep on moving up, progressing along his road to redemption.
King said: "I managed to get to Lithuania and play in a great competitive league, maybe not on the best team, but it was a step forward for me and I did enough to get seen and maybe move to a more competitive league like France, Germany Spain or Turkey. That's what I'm hoping for next."
Learning from his mistakes
A move to one of Europe's top leagues beckons for King, who has finally managed to shake his college past.
King is philosophical when talking about his past. Talking to him one on one he seems a man at peace with the mistakes he made, drawing on the dark parts of his past to help him become a better basketball player and a better man.
He is a man who now has the benefit of wisdom, one who is thankful for what he has and the journey he has been on.
His professional life continues to be on the rise, he has found love and has repaired the strained relationship with his father, with the two now closer than ever.
"I am very happy with where I am now in my life," he beams.
"I'm about to take some online classes so that I can finish my degree. There is life after basketball. I want to coach, I want to go into teaching. I'm happy, I'm healthy and very fortunate to be where I am today.
"Now, at 28 years old, I have come to realise it was nobody's fault but my own.
"I used to blame Coach K, I used to blame Jay Wright, I used to blame my Dad, but all in all it was my own fault. It was me making those choices that put me in bad positions to not be successful on the floor.
"You learn from your mistakes. I'm at peace with myself and closer to God now than ever before. Everything happens for a reason."
And if King came face to face with his 18-year-old self, just what would be his pearls of wisdom?
"If I were talking to me nine years ago then I would say just stick it out," he said.
"No matter how bad things get, they can get worse. Continue to push, continue to stay positive and continue to keep a good attitude. Everybody has their own path. I'm still travelling mine.
"I think I'm going to write a book when I'm done with basketball. My Dad said he would like to write a book on how not to raise an elite athlete. I'm nowhere near done yet, though. There's still more to come from me. I won't sell myself short."