If you take the “n” out of Madi Kingdon’s last name, and switch it with a “m,” you get Kingdom.
Right now, things in the Kingdom of Kingdon are good. Great, even. The No. 25 Wildcats (15-5, 5-3 Pac-12) face Colorado tonight in Boulder and Utah on Sunday in Salt Lake City. The UA is coming off a sweep of No. 1 USC on Sunday.
Coach Dave Rubio said he saw Kingdon’s potential as far back as five years ago. He began recruiting Kingdon when she was a 15-year old sophomore at Phoenix’s Sunnyslope High School.
Here’s how he tells it:
“She was on an 18-year-old team when she was 15, which people didn’t know. As a 15-year-old, she wasn’t competing at that level, but everyone thought she was 18. But I knew she was only a sophomore and a lot of people overlooked her. I’m thinking, ‘This is the kid I want because I know she’s going to develop,’ so I didn’t really have to fight too many people off.”
Rubio was ahead of the curve: In her senior year Kingdon won the Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year and was The Arizona Republic’s player of the year and one of the nation’s top recruits.
“If we would’ve waited for another six months, then everybody would have jumped in,” Rubio said. USC coach “Mick Haley was telling me, ‘If I had known about Madi, I would’ve been all over her.’ So that’s a pretty big compliment.”
“Now,” Rubio added, “she’s one of the elite players in the conference.”
Here’s a look at why.
Exhibit A: The match
What: Arizona’s 3-0 win over then-No. 1 USC on Sunday at McKale
Why: Kingdon carried the Wildcats in the second set with 10 kills and one service ace. She finished with 20 kills, the last of which was a game-winner in the third set, and carried a .340 hitting percentage. It was Arizona’s first win over a No. 1 team in 20 years, and the win — coupled with a Friday sweep of UCLA — catapulted Arizona into the Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 29, 2010.
Upon further review: “I wasn’t playing as strong as I could’ve been (in the first set). I realized that going into the second, and just needed to pull my weight a little more. I cleaned it up a bit.” — Kingdon
“It’s great to see. I think maybe Madi her freshman or sophomore year wouldn’t have been able to rebound and perform, but she did great. She’s a huge reason why our team won.” — senior libero Candace Nicholson
Exhibit B: The numbers
What: Kingdon’s 20-kill performance against USC was her fifth 20-plus effort of the season. She’s had more than 10 kills in 17 of 20 matches, leads the Pac-12 with 317 kills (4.53 per set), is tops in points (373.5, 5.34 per set), second in double-doubles (9) and ninth in service aces (23). Nationally, she ranks eighth in points per set and 14th in kills per set.
Why: If those numbers don’t catch your eye enough, consider that Kingdon is only 39 kills from joining the UA’s all-time top-10 single season list. Her pace this season — 15.85 kills per match — projects her to finish with about 507 total, which would be the sixth-best single-season total of all time. And that doesn’t even include a potential NCAA tournament berth, which projects as likely for the UA with its No. 17 RPI ranking.
Upon further review: “I don’t really think about stats that much when I’m in the games or playing, I just try to go out there and play the best I can for my team.” — Kingdon
Exhibit C: The progress
What: Look at the statistics: After registering 358 kills her freshman year and 443 her sophomore year, Kingdon is on pace for a career high. She has 317 kills through 20 matches this year.
Why: Kingdon graduated from high school a semester early to join the Wildcats the spring before her freshman season, and it looks to have paid off. Each year, Kingdon has improved. In fact, her career stats and team success might be enough to get her into the Wildcats’ Ring of Honor alongside the likes of UA outside hitter legends Barb Bell and Kim Glass. Kingdon is on pace to finish in the UA’s all-time top five in kills and top 10 in digs, which is something only done by three Wildcats — Glass, Terry Lauchner and Tiffany Owens.
Upon further review: “Every day I just have to come in and know there’s just some things I have to work on and just kinda focus on the little things at this point that make me that much better than somebody else in our conference. It’s hard, but it’s a work in progress.” — Kingdon
“I think that the story is yet to be written. I think her legacy is gonna be how far can we take this team, how deep can we take it. Where she ranks, it’s hard for me to project until her career’s finished, but she’s certainly on track to be among the elite players that ever played in the program.” — Rubio