Fast-Rising Jalen James May Favor Illini

A couple of guards Illinois was looking at in 2013 went off the board in the last month. Don't worry, another guard is breaking on the scene and has the "pure point guard" game that Illini coaches and fans crave.

Jalen James is a 6'-3" sophomore point guard from Hope Academy in Chicago. He plays for a 1A school but has a big time game. He is starting to get interest from Big 10 schools including Illinois, who he has visited for each of its last two home games.

James described his visit at the Assembly Hall as the Illini took on the Iowa Hawkeyes.

"I got there about 10 minutes before the game. I sat there and watched the game. After the game, the assistant coach took me into the locker room. I talked to Demetri McCamey because he knows my AAU coach Mike Mullins. Coach (Bruce) Weber came and talked to me for a couple of minutes."

What did the point guard and Illini head coach discuss?

"He said he heard I was a true point guard, and he has seen my video. He liked it."

The visit then transitioned to the Ubben basketball complex for a tour of the facilities.

"One of the assistant coaches took me to the practice facility. He showed me the coaches' offices, the basketball courts, all the trophies and the weight room."

James was extremely impressed with what he saw at the Ubben complex.

"The practice facility was beautiful. I loved everything about it. They had a lounge for the players to watch film. One thing I loved was the coaches give each player a scout sheet on the player they have to guard."

Overall he really enjoyed the visit and felt he got a lot out of the experience. He was especially impressed with one aspect on the court and one off the court.

"The atmosphere, oh my god! The student body comes out to support. I love that. The defense. I love Coach Weber's man to man defense. Most of our points come off of defense. Man-to-man fits me perfectly."

The Hope Academy sophomore grew up an Illinois fan and says playing for his home state school would certainly peak his interest were they to extend a scholarship down the line.

"If they offered I would really highly look into accepting that scholarship because it is close to home, close to my family, and it is a big-time college for basketball."

The fact Illinois was recruiting the point guard was news to him. He played great in a state playoff game and then found out there was a special observer in the audience.

"I had no clue they were watching me. I had a regional championship game, and an assistant coach from Illinois (Jerrance Howard) came out. I didn't even know he was in the crowd. I scored 25 points, and he invited me to come out and watch them."

What does Coach Howard have to say?

"He likes my game. He said I am a true point guard. He said I am a born point guard. I took it to heart."

James plays for the Illinois Wolves on the AAU circuit. Coach Mike Mullins discussed what type of player the guard is.

"Jalen is a pure point guard that has great size for the position. He has a great frame. He plays under control, makes plays and doesn't turn it over a lot. He has a nice release on his jumper and range that extends to the three point line.

"He is active on defense and gets a lot of deflections with his length in the passing lanes. I think he has a really bright future."

The sophomore agrees he is a pure point guard. Illinois is looking for this specific fit in their class of 2013 recruiting efforts.

"I am a pass-first player that likes to get my teammates involved, but when it comes down to needing a basket, I am always there for my coach."

Mullins talked about the success Hope Academy had this year and how James's play contributed to it.

"He has had a really good season. They are playing well. They are a 1A school. They won their regional when Coach Howard was down there. Jalen runs the team. He orchestrates the offense and the defense."

Hope Academy bowed out of the state championship in a loss Friday night, but James is predicting a state championship in the next year or two. For the season, he averaged 16 points and 9 assists. He is starting to garner Big 10 interest from schools other than the Illini. James has one mid-major offer and other high-major interest.

"I have an offer from Cleveland State and interest from Michigan, Wisconsin, DePaul, and Illinois."

Coach Mullins believes more high-majors will begin to knock on James's door as the AAU season goes along.

"I am sure he will be on a lot of people's recruiting lists this spring and summer."

It appears the Illini have an edge in his recruitment should they offer him a scholarship. James wants to make sure that happens.

"I'm gonna work harder to make sure I'm playing there in two years. I love everything about the team, coaching staff, the student body. I really loved the man-to-man defense."

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