Ex-King Ronnie Price: A humbling basketball career

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Legend has it, there was once a point guard on the Sacramento Kings who prior to his pro career failed to earn a college scholarship. The mythical figure was an afterthought in the NBA draft, yet he logged floor time in the playoffs his rookie year.

According to folklore, his name is Ronnie Price.

After graduating Clear Brook High School in 2001, no college offered Price a scholarship. He walked on the team at Nicholls State University, and transferred to Utah Valley State after his freshman season. At the time, his new school was a junior college.

Price and Utah Valley State were the best thing that happened to each other. The basketball player improved his scoring and defensive acumen every year, while the university was accepted as a provisional Division I athletic program by the time he was a junior.

By his senior season, Price averaged 24.3 points per game and regularly shut down opposing point guards. NBA teams came sniffing around, but one franchise showed particular interest.

“I worked out for the (Kings) in the summer before the draft,” Price told Cowbell Kingdom on Sunday. “I had a decent workout here. They had one draft pick that year and they drafted Francisco Garcia. Then they invited me to summer league, and I winded up signing the two-year deal after summer league.”

The Kings gave Price a shot when 29 other teams didn’t. The point guard signed with the Kings in August 2005 after slipping through 60 selections.

Price played only 5.2 minutes per games in 29 contests his rookie season, but Rick Adelman trusted him enough to make four appearances versus the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. His second year under Eric Musselman, he entered 58 contests and upped his run to 9.7 minutes per game (which afforded him this dunk).

Price left the Kings in 2007 to join the Utah Jazz (along with fellow King Jason Hart), but the 31-year-old attributes his unlikely 10-year NBA career to his development while in Sacramento.

“I had Corliss Williamson, Jason Hart, Mike Bibby, Bonzi Wells, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Brad Miller, the list goes on,” Price explained. “I had tons of great veteran guys here, Mo Taylor the next year. A lot of great veteran guys that helped me, all in different ways.”

Price’s dominance in college never translated to the NBA, with career averages of four points and 3.5 assists per game. Nevertheless, teams have found him to a trustworthy second or third-string ball handler. In addition to the Kings and Jazz, Price was suited up for the Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic, and currently the Los Angeles Lakers. In Hollywood, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound journeyman is a full-time starter for the first time as a pro, which Price could care less.

“I don’t make a big deal out of the fact that I’m starting because my minutes are pretty much still the exact same, just playing at a different time in the game,” Price noted. “My job is to do what I have to do, no matter when it is so I don’t really think too much about it, honestly.”

The former walk-on and JUCO player has made it a point (pun intended) to never forget where he came from. This includes Utah Valley State, where he remains an ambassador for the school. Likewise, as a sign of respect, the university elected Price to its Hall of Fame in 2010.

“We’ve done a few things,” Price said in regard to his relationship with Utah Valley State. “But you know, it’s all great, it’s all good man. I don’t see anything special about it, it’s just the fact that it brings more attention to the university now as far as the scene of talent that comes out of there. There’s been a lot of talented guys before me that played at Utah Valley, so a lot of guys have had great professional careers, maybe not in the NBA, but still had great professional careers elsewhere, so there’s been a lot of talent at my school.”

And of course, Price will never forget the Kings. When his hoops career is all said and done, the dedicated worker can look back at his first years in the association fondly.

“My very first game and also my first year here we made it to the playoffs, that whole year was great,” Price stated. “My whole two years was great, but my first playoff game and my very first NBA game is definitely something I’ll never forget.”

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About: Rui Thomas

Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.