"The EYBL is amazing."
Those were the first words uttered by Houston Hoops guard Christian James when asked about his spring. In all honesty, amazing might be putting it lightly.
A rising senior from Bellaire High School, James capitalized on his opportunity to play in the EYBL, perhaps more than any other guard in the league. Before the EYBL season, James had five scholarship offers. That changed quickly. And James credits the EYBL experience.
"It's the best tournament in the country, and it's crazy playing in front of all the college coaches." James explained, highlighting his desire to test himself. "I love playing against the best players in the country, because I'm not ranked in ESPN. It just makes me play harder to prove people wrong."
Coming off averaging 20 points and eight rebounds as a junior at Bellaire, James took full advantage of being surrounded by elite teammates. During the EYBL season, the 6-foot-5 James picked up eight offers, now holding eight from high-major schools.
The end result was beautiful, but it took James a little while to settle in. As every high school star-to-EYBL situation, James had to deal with an adjustment period of not being "the man." That adjustment period proved to skyrocket his stock, as he proved he could be extremely efficient in numerous different aspects of the game.
"It took a while, but I finally found my role with the team." James said. "It took us a while to gel but we finally got it together for the Peach Jam."
Citing rebounding and shot creation off-the-dribble as his best assets, James biggest improvement wasn't a skill - it was his confidence.
"The competition level is amazing - it's a lot faster, players are bigger and way stronger than high school ball." James said. "It just gives you confidence knowing you can play with the top players in the country."
He matched the competition level and then some. James' numbers speak for themselves; He led Houston Hoops in scoring (12.2 PPG), steals (1.4 SPG), blocks (1.0 BPG) and was second in rebounding (5.8 RPG). Also of note - he shot 61.8% from the field, and 79.2% from the line.
James showed no nerves while implementing his skillset in North Augusta. And if you're wondering if players are nervous playing in front of hundreds of coaches, James gave an honest answer - but what that many basketball players can relate to.
"Of course!" James said, of playing in front of the head coaches he's watched his whole life on TV. "But once the ball goes up, I usually get in my zone."
Moving into his senior year, James wants to continue to improve his shooting and defense. And his goals for his final year in high school? James carries only one - and it's a doozy.
"Yeah," James bluntly answered. "Get my coach a state championship."
That man is Bruce Glover, a coach that James has grown very close to. He wants a similar relationship from his college coach, as he will likely be an impact, four-year player for a high-major program.
"I need a coach that's going to make me a better person, and also develop my game." James said, clearly understanding the bigger picture. "I have to be close with the coach, and I have to trust him."
A free college tuition while having the opportunity to contribute immediately to a high major program is a dream, and Christian James is living it. The only aspect that hasn't caught up with his meteoric rise is the rankings - which James knows don't matter. But that doesn't stop him from stating the obvious.
"I should be on that list."