Mike James was a very heralded freshman for last year’s team. By all accounts, he was showing out in practice and it was hinted at by former coach Chris Mack that James was going to have a pretty significant role with last year’s team. Unfortunately, an Achilles injury in the preseason meant he never played a minute. It was unfortunate as the team could’ve used the size, skill, athleticism, and perimeter defense he displayed as a high school player. Once the season ended, with the coach that recruited him gone and him still recovering from the injury, people wondered if James would join El Ellis and Sydney Curry to form a nucleus for new coach Kenny Payne or if he would opt to transfer somewhere else after last season’s unsatisfying experience. In the end, Mike James has chosen to become part of Coach Payne’s nucleus.
James is exactly the type of talent Coach Kenny Payne wants. He’s 6’6, strong, and can jump out of the gym. He’s also displayed a good shooting ability in high school to match the athleticism. James averaged 19.4 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, and 1.2 bpg in his senior high school season. He was a stat-stuffer and had similarities to Terrence Williams in terms of his all-around skill and ability on the court. He differed in the fact he shot 44-percent from 3-point range.
Mike James is a player that will allow Coach Payne some flexibility in lineup and roster management. He can play either as a guard or forward. I suspect Coach Payne may utilize James as a guard due to his size and ability to guard the perimeter. W
hile we got to see glimpses of what Sydney Curry and El Ellis can be when at their best, we didn’t get to see what Mike James can be. We can only look back at his high school highlights and the reports from preseason practice. However, Coach Kenny Payne has been an excellent talent evaluator. I believe he saw Mike James’ high school film and practice film and came away believing James can be an NBA prospect.
The big question will be if this Achilles injury takes away any of James’ athletic explosiveness and if he can come back and be the player he was. To me, it speaks volumes that Coach Payne wants him as part of the core of his first team. Mike James has more unknowns than Curry or Ellis, but he also may have the highest ceiling. Time will tell, but keeping James in the fold is huge as I think Coach Payne can help him become a true college basketball star.