The improbable story of Delroy James has been told before, but not like this, read it to believe it. There is no angle, just the words from a young man who traveled nearly 3,000 miles to a new country to simply have the chance for a better life. The path to that life was lined with obstacles that most only ever see in the movies or read in story books.
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.
Phase Three: Rhode Island
Public school was not the correct route for James. He wasn’t fitting in and with the emergence of his basketball ability, he turned to Laurinburg Prep School. Once James committed to Rhode Island, the school that showed the most initial interest, he was courted by Kentucky and Miami. Both schools offered more exposure, a higher level of competition and a real shot at getting noticed by NBA scouts. James is a man of his word, a man of honor, he kept his commitment to the Rhodies and four years later is close to living his dream, playing in the NBA.
Is James an NBA player? If you ask him, the response is always “Luke Babbitt goes in the lottery and I locked him up and score 34 on him and say I cannot make it to that level. He went 1-14 in the NIT against me and I had my career high against him.”
Phase Four: The NBA
With a unique past made for an indie movie rather than an NBA prospects journey, Delroy James definitely has the mental make-up to survive in the NBA. His destination is in sight. Coming from Guyana, this was not even an option James entertained. Now, 17 years later and 3,000 miles away, James finds himself closer to the bright lights with a chance to play under them.
I was lucky enough to speak to acclaimed sports author Bill Reynolds and he had this to say about Delroy James the player, the person:
“I have found Delroy to be delightful, a kid whose had a remarkable journey and appreciates where he ended up. He’s a real success story, the kind of kid you want to root for….There’s no question he’s got ability, and the best thing he does is get to the basket. His shot is streaky. When he makes jumpers he’s very tough to guard; when he doesn’t he’s a different player. But he always plays hard, always has a great attitude, and I hope he gets a chance.”
With the guidance of D-Train and Herren, the support of a country and the heart of a champion, James is well on his way to success. It all begins tomorrow, when James will know where the next phase of his journey will begin.
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