NBPA: James Sets His Sights

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. --- Joel James was up front with Roy Williams when they spoke earlier this month.

James, a 6-foot-10 290-pound center from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., hasn't received a scholarship offer from the Tar Heels and wanted to know how to get one. So when Williams called, James asked him who he needed to beat out for the offer.

"He said it's between me and Kaleb (Tarczewski)," James said Thursday morning at the NBPA camp. "(It's) out of me and him."

It's unclear whether James and Tarczewksi could potentially play together at UNC -- James said he didn't ask -- but having a target has helped with his motivation this summer.

"I just wanted to know who I needed to beat out," James said.

James has a list of five schools with Florida, Florida State, West Virginia, Ohio State and North Carolina making the cut. He said he is intrigued by the tradition in Chapel Hill and has a good relationship with Williams.

"The program speaks for itself," James said. "It's been one of the greatest basketball schools. I really enjoy Coach Williams. I think he's a wonderful person, wonderful coach. Just the experience of playing for him would be pretty good."

In addition to singling out his competition during their 30-minute conversation, James also spoke with Williams about areas for improvement.

"He said I need to be more aggressive on the offensive end," James said. "I need to rebound more in traffic. Run the floor a little bit better and just be more aggressive all around."

Playing aggressive can be a double-edged sword for James, who often dwarfs defenders and runs into foul trouble when he overpowers them. He said he just needs to find a balance.

"I'm so used to not using all my strength and power because I always pick up cheap, quick fouls," James said. "But I know I need to do these things. So I just try to relax the first quarter, feel myself out and feel out the other players and go out and play."

James looked like he'd found a balance Thursday morning in a matchup with Nerlens Noel, the No. 1-ranked center in the 2013 class. Early on, James struggled with Noel's length and athleticism and failed to find a rhythm.

But in the second half James got physical with Noel and used his frame to get to the basket. James finished the game with 13 points and held Noel, who didn't get many touches offensively, scoreless.

"You can't just try to go over the top (of Noel) because he's longer than you and can jump higher than you," James said. "So I just have to play smart."

In addition to playing smart, James is also trying to slim down while getting stronger. He said he wants to drop 10 to 15 pounds while continuing to add muscle.

"I'm not even close to where I want to be," James said. "It's still a work in progress."

While James would love an offer from North Carolina, that isn't the only prize he's playing for this summer. He said all five of his schools are on even ground and he'd be happy at any of them. He said he just wants to go to a school where he can develop.

"I'm not expecting to go in there and start as a freshman," James said. "If I can, that would be wonderful but I just really want to play against an older, bigger player so he can teach me things so I can get better offensively and defensively. Just develop my game all around."

James said he's still learning more about the schools on his list and reading up on them. He plans on unofficially visiting Florida and Florida State when he gets home from the NBPA camp and he'll go on his official visits in the fall.

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