It took less than seven months for him to return to the court after breaking his leg just before the start of the high school season – his final one at Bellaire (Texas). His coach there, Marcus Glover, remembers demanding baskets he asked of James, who always answered with a run.
“‘That good enough for you?’” Glover remembers James asking while running past him down the court after a quick flurry of points.
“That’s what I need from you,” Glover would answer back.
“He can play,” Glover said. “He sees the court so well. It makes people around him better. Damn, we missed him. We would have made a hell of a run with him healthy. He’s hard to deal with.”
The next few months will be a wide series of challenges for James. Working with John Lucas to rehab his leg further and drop the weight gained after spending the season on the sideline, James will also have to quickly transition to playing at the collegiate level.
Kruger re-enforced that message with James last week.
“He told me to be ready,” said James, who added that he will play the wing with the Sooners. “. . . It’s confidence. It makes me feel like he’s confident in me, and I made the right decision. It lets me know that he trusts me in what I’m doing and bringing to campus.”
James also said that he might play the point, too: The position left without a true back-up at Oklahoma. Had he been healthy, James would have played point guard at Bellaire in the latter half of the season.
He has the playing traits that lend themselves to leading a team, according to his coach.
“He sure can. He played the point for us,” Glover said. “. . . He’s such a leader, that’s the thing.”
“I’m an unselfish player, and I distribute the ball anyways,” James said. “I’m at my best when I’m downhill and in transition.”
Almost six years ago, Glover was called out to a middle-school practice to see a player. He doesn’t remember who the player was, but he remembers seeing a young James standing out amongst the crowd.
At a young age, Glover said the game was slow to James.
“He had great, great court savvy,” Glover said. “He understood where his teammates were, He’d take shots when they were there.”
Glover remembers pointing over to James all those years ago: “That’s the special one there.”
The toughest metals have to be forged. James needed his challenges. He faced one of the biggest.
When James finally came back from his broken leg just before the start of the state playoffs, he was nervous. He didn’t know how his leg would hold up, and he wonder how his months on the sideline would affect him.
He was out of shape, having added more than ten pounds while playing assistant coach – something Glover said came easy to James.
James grabbed a couple rebounds during the two-game run, but he wasn’t at full health and he knew it.
He accomplished the first challenge of returning from a broken leg. Now, he’s working on regaining that explosiveness he had before the injury, shedding the weight and returning to peak form before coming to Norman.
“ It’s over now, and he’s ready to attack it,” Glover said.