High School: Jalen James
James, a 6-foot-3 point guard, changed schools to concentrate on his academics, according to his club team coach Mike Mullins. James officially enrolled in La Lumiere on Thursday morning.
“The advantages academically of being a residential prep school environment where there’s tutors before class, small class sizes, study tables every night, ACT learning and six-day-a-week studies, the James family thought this was the best move to prepare Jalen for college and the ACT,” said Mullins, who runs the Illinois Wolves. “Hope was a wonderful school. James appreciated all the opportunities he had there. This offered an opportunity to get some rigorous academic preparation, which his family thought he may need.”
La Lumiere coach Alan Huss said a normal day at the school includes a full morning and afternoon of classes, basketball practice, two hours of proctored study tables in the evening, a couple 30-minute free periods throughout the day and lights out at 10:30 p.m.
“The way the day’s set up there’s not a lot of outside influences,” Huss said. “It’s just school and basketball, and school is first. I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but I think he was torn because he felt some loyalty to his school, high school teammates and his team. This move is about him being in the best position to have success as a freshman at the University of Illinois.”
Mullins said James should have no trouble qualifying for college and being eligible as a freshman at Illinois if he does what’s expected of him at La Lumiere. Two other Wolves’ players, Bobo Drummond and Jay Simpson, are also students at La Lumiere.
“That won’t be an issue about him being eligible if he does everything he’s supposed to,” Mullins said. “Their success rate is high if he does all the work. We have monitored this. The James family has monitored this. I check our players’ grades regularly. I think everybody should commend Jalen and his family for placing his academics first.”
La Lumiere plays Farragut in the Bob Hambric Shootout at T.F. North on Saturday. James is expected to play.
Hope was 13-2 with James this season and was considered a Class 2A state title contender. The Eagles defeated Marshall without James on Wednesday.
James committed to the Illini in June.
Class of 2013 point guard Jalen James committed to Illinois on Wednesday.
James, a 6-4 point guard from Hope Academy in Chicago, was offered by Illinois after its team camp in Champaign on Wednesday. James discussed the offer with Illinois Wolves club coach Mike Mullins, his brother and father and committed an hour and a half later.
"I called [Illinois assistant] coach Jerrance [Howard] and told him it was a done deal," James said. "He was in the office and started screaming his lungs out.
"I really didn't have a second or third favorite [at this point.] I was waiting for an offer from them. I committed because of the players they're going to have, coach [Bruce] Weber, coach [Howard], and, most importantly, my family will be able to come to see me play and not have to travel too far."
James' stock improved with his play during the spring club season with the Wolves. He is now considered one of the state's top Class of 2013 prospects.
"I think he has a great frame," Mullins said. "He's a bigger point guard. He's still growing and filling out his body. He has a good feel for the game. He's not a point guard who has to learn the position when he gets to college. He has a great burst in the open court. He's a willing defender. He's a good rebounder for his position."
James will carry on the tradition of Wolves point guards going onto Illinois. The list includes Demetri McCamey, who is expected to be selected in Thursday's NBA draft, senior Sam Maniscalco and freshman Tracy Abrams.
"From Demetri to Sammy to Tracy to Jalen, we could have a 9-10 year run here," Mullins said. "It's a credit to the kids more than us. It's fun being able to see them and follow them being the state school. We have a lot of respect for coach Weber."
James is Illinois’' first Class of 2013 recruit.