James' personal connection leads to OU commit

Oklahoma secured signing of 2015 3-star forward during official visit

Christian James decided to give himself an 18th birthday present.

It just so happens that Oklahoma men’s basketball coach Lon Kruger got a little something, too.

The 6-foot-5 James, a three-star forward, verbally committed to the Sooners on Thursday, giving Oklahoma the third member of its 2015 class.

“It’s an amazing experience,” James said. “It’s a great feeling to know where I’m going. I don’t really have to stress about it anymore.”

For much of the recruiting process, Oregon was in the lead in James’ mind. He even called Oregon his ‘dream school.’

He knew the second that he left Norman this past weekend, Oklahoma was where he would end up.

Oregon might have been a dream, but Oklahoma was the perfect reality.

“I just felt like that was where I was going to be for the next four years,” James said.

James had narrowed his selection down to Oklahoma, Houston and Oregon but never took an official visit to either Houston or Oregon. He also had offers from Creighton, Alabama and Maryland among many others.

James, who averaged 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists per game last year in high school, joins top-rated JuCo center Akolda Manyang and fellow Texas wing man Rashard Odomes to possibly complete the Sooners' 2015 recruiting class.

James shows great versatility with touch around the basket and an ever-increasing range. His court vision and ball handling are impressive for a player with his length. His length will give him an opportunity to be an immediate impact player on defense for Oklahoma.

Ultimately, it was James’ official visit that made his decision for him.

“When I went up there, it was amazing,” said James, who expects to be a part of the November early signing period. “The people really welcomed me. I just loved the way they did that. . . . As soon as I stepped on campus, I felt like that was home for me.” He anticipates making another visit to Norman on Dec. 6, which is the same weekend that 2016 four-star point guard J.J. Caldwell is expecting to visit Oklahoma. Both are from the Houston area.

James has a long relationship with multiple players on the Sooners’ roster. He looked up to forward TaShawn Thomas when the transfer was playing for Houston, and he has known freshman big man Khadeem Lattin since fifth grade. “I kind of look up to him like a brother figure,” James said. “We’re kind of close so I guess that helped in the recruiting process.”

James also grew close with Oklahoma assistant coach Lew Hill because of a common bond.

James suffered a fractured tibia in August, during his last AAU tournament before the start of school. He still has dreams of playing in the NBA, and James said that Hill, who was involved in a serious car accident while playing overseas and suffered a career-ending injury, made him believe that his dream is still attainable.

“He knows what I’m going through,” James said. “He was just telling me how to earn everything, always work hard and never give up on your dreams. He felt where I was coming from, because it’s my dream to make it to the NBA.”

James had a long-term, personal connection with Oklahoma. Hill, Thomas and Lattin all played a part, but James pointed out that when he was hurt, Oklahoma stuck around, maintaining the recruitment effort that the Sooners started during James’ sophomore year.

“I’ve always loved OU,” James said. “ . . . It was just when I got there; the atmosphere just blew me away – how nice and genuine the people were. The players – how they welcomed me. I love the way they play and how they coach.”

Sooners Illustrated Top Stories