by Jakob Perez
The SLCC Bruins currently are ranked 13th in the country with a convincing 12-2 record. There’s no doubt that they are heavily stocked with talent. They have several guys capable of putting up a jaw-dropping performance on any given night. One player that always seems to be in the middle of all the action is sophomore guard James Lee.
For the 6’3” 180 pound combo guard it has been a long road to achieve his dream of playing Division I college basketball. It’s evident that all of his hard work is paying off. The Maryland native is far from home, but it’s not the first that basketball has taken him to a different state. Lee attended Montverde Academy, a school known for producing NBA caliber talent year after year. There he was able to sharpen his skills as he played alongside future stars such as Miami Heat forward Precious Achiuwa, Oklahoma State standout Cade Cunningham and many other Division I players.
Since coming to SLCC, Lee has proved that he too has star potential. In his second year as a Bruin, he has improved his numbers in almost every statistical category. He is leading the team in both scoring and assists with 13.4 points and 4.9 assists per game. With the versatility to play both point and shooting guard for Coach Taylor, James has found a great balance between his scoring and play making. Even when opposing teams put extra defenders on him, he finds a way to make an impact with his passing. While he’s demonstrated that he can be a great floor general, finishing at the rim is by far his best attribute.
This is a skill he’s gained in part from watching his favorite players.
“I like John Wall a lot,” said Lee. “I’ve always liked him since like fourth grade… I like Kyrie so I like to play like them two for sure.”
When watching him play, it’s easy to see the resemblance between his game that of the two all-star point guards. It’s not uncommon to see him get to the basket with multiple defenders on him. He can also finish acrobatic reverse layups and sometimes he even soars through the air for a powerful jam. These are the same types of finishes that have made Wall and Irving two of the best guards in the NBA over the last decade.
Lee isn’t just an offensive minded player. He’s been getting it done on both sides of the court. While many players would be intimidated to play for a team that runs a full court press for most of the game like SLCC does, Lee thrives in it. So far, he’s averaging just shy of two steals per game and has already had two five-steal games this year. He attributes his defensive prowess to Coach Taylor’s system. Their press has forced teams to rush shots and keeps them from getting into their halfcourt offense with a full shot clock.
When asked about what has made him such an effective defender this year James made it clear that he has put in the work to improve this aspect of his game.
“Just being in shape… working out harder and understanding what people are trying to do,”James said. “Playing basketball more often definitely helps me out a lot.”
The strides that Lee has taken in enhancing his game from last season to this one is a big reason why SLCC is one of the top ranked teams in the NJCAA. Even so, he knows that his game still has room for improvement. So what’s the next step for Lee?
“Definitely my jump shot,” James said. “I feel like if I can knock down more shots more consistently then there’s a big chance nobody’s going to be able to stop me.”
He’s right. Once his three point shot starts to go down at a higher rate, the game will open even more for him as opposing teams would have to run him off the three point line, allowing him to get to the basket and open up his teammates more easily.
Despite only shooting 23 percent from deep, this season he is still shooting a phenomenal 51 percent from the field. His poor shooting from distance is an easy fix because it seems to be more of a case of shot selection than mechanics. Once his jump shot starts to fall more regularly, there might not be a team in the NJCAA that can stop him.
While Lee went down with an ankle injury in a win against conference rival College of Southern Idaho, he expects to be back in the coming weeks to help the Bruins make a push for the conference and national titles.
Featured image courtesy SLCC Athletics