Their invitation: Answered

Matt Tomczak didn't want to waste time on softball questions, so he cut to the chase with Billy King, president and general manager of the 76ers.

"At the end of the season, do you have a pizza party at your house? For all the players?" Matt asked.

King paused, scanning the crowd - Brandi Wright's fifth-grade class at Fox Chase Academics Plus School in the Northeast. He smiled. He was pretty sure he could handle this one.

"No," he said. "But that's a good idea. Maybe we should think about that."

The class scored a visit yesterday from the impressive guy (important and really tall!) by writing letters to King early in the school year.

Wright had told her students that their words are powerful. They write letters every Friday, picking mostly sports figures and politicians. But King is the first person they've gotten to visit.

The process has transformed her class, said Wright.

"When we came in this year, they did not like writing at all. Now, they're so excited about who they're writing letters to, they're not complaining about writing at all," she said.

The 31 boys and girls had questions ready to go, and signaled them with wildly waving hands and "Ooh-ooh! Pick me!"

In the spirit of Matt, they didn't hold back the tough ones.

"How does it feel to trade good players?" one student asked.

Take the Allen Iverson swap, King said - because he knew that's what the kids were getting at. The Denver move was good for the Sixers, and it "was a deal I thought was best for Allen. He had a chance to win the championship."

Someone else wanted to know whether King had any moves up his sleeve before the late-February trading deadline. If the media weren't there, he'd say more, he said. But for the record:

"I don't plan on trading any players. We have a very young team, and I plan on seeing them develop as we rebuild."

If anyone calls, he'll listen, though, he said.

He also addressed the students seriously.

"I think it's important you took the time to write letters," King said. "I never set out to be a president or a general manager. I just set out to be the best I could be. Don't ever let anybody tell you you can't do anything."

After he took care of questions regarding college (he went to Duke, majoring in political science) future ambitions (politics?) and fun (he likes to read), King signed autographs in silver Sharpie and posed for dozens of photos.

Rosemary Rodriguez, 11, rhapsodized over the visitor.

"He's awesome!" she gushed.

Davide Johnson even handed King a fresh letter he'd dashed off.

"You have a hard job because when you do wrong, people start to dislike you and most of the time, that's what happens. Do you think AI made a big difference? I don't," Davide wrote.

King was awed by Wright's class, he said. He doesn't get many letters from children, and most of his mail skews . . . well, negative.

"They were pretty astute," he said. "They knew exactly what to ask."

Quintal Little, 10, was won over. He liked what King had to say about the team, but most important, he said, he realized that his words were what had brought King to Fox Chase.

"I'm going to write until I'm 55 years old," said Quintal. "I'm going to write until I die."


For reporter Kristen Graham, Billy King's visit to Fox Chase Academics Plus School was also a chance to return to her own grade school. Read her first-person account of the visit online, and see photos, at http://go.philly.com/billyking


Contact staff writer Kristen Graham at 215-854-5146 or kgraham@phillynews.com.

To comment, or to ask a question, go to http://go.philly.com/askgraham.