Phase One: Guyana
This story begins in Guyana, South America of all places with James and his seven other siblings, four of which are his athletic older brothers. His memories of Guyana are still with him today, he even has a few scars to prove it. He described himself as a “wild” kid who at five years old was hit by a motorcycle (as a pedestrian) and fell off the roof of his house, two memories he still reflects on of his home country.
Guyana, as James described was, “I remember the little things. It is a different life out there to tell you the truth. It will be an honor to my family out here and my family out there in Guyana to hear my name called on June 23rd. From high school, coming out of Guyana it would all be so humbling and appreciated. Not only for me and the hard work I put in, but for my family and for my country.”
Once James got a little older, his father and mother both began the move to the United States. That move required them to make the ultimate sacrifice, leave James and two of his other siblings alone in Guyana while they worked on getting the family all into the country.
James described the situation as “my dad brought us here piece-by-piece. My mom would come back maybe once a year. It was the exact same thing struggling, going to school, cleaning and doing the things I had to do at seven years old. I was six years old or seven years old going through what I went through, I felt like I was twelve years old or older. It gives you a new perspective on life just because of what I seen back there.”
In his home country, basketball was not a focus for him. He never played in the short seven years he was there. That was when he would take the next step in his journey, a voyage to the Big Apple, New York.
Phase Two: New York
Once in New York the transition was toughest on James in the classroom. He looked different, he sounded different and ultimately was different from his new peers. They could not understand him and rightfully so. He was the new kid, but not from another school and city, from another country. New York provided challenges for James from day one.
Before he found basketball, James often ignored the classroom. But he also found a way to ignore the drugs, gangs and alcohol that the streets of New York invite you in with. He was never a bad kid, just trying to find his way in a new country, in a new way of life.
As a sophomore in high school, James began to play basketball. It was in New York where James was able to learn basketball. Playing on the streets is like scrimmaging against the top recruits in the country, players likes of Sebastian Telfair, Lance Stephenson and Cory Fisher.
Once James found basketball, his energy and passion led to being trained by legendary New York-area basketball mind Darryl Smith (D-Train) and Massachusetts’ Chris Herren (co-author of Basketball Junkie: A Memoir). Smith and Herren worked with James to help develop his skill; the energy and effort were evident.