It’s a busy time of year for me. As an academic administrator at Hofstra Law School, I oversee over 1000 students taking their exams on computer (using secure exam software for both Apple and PCs), so checking the news wire for college basketball info gets delayed until the weekends often during this time of year. So, much to my surprise, I caught this news story blurb on ESPN's College BB site.
Duquesne's James hires agent, will enter draft
Couldn't believe it. Shawn James? Going into the NBA draft and hiring an agent? (which means his college career is done). Now, don't get me wrong, Shawn James is a talented player. I got to see a lot of James in his sophomore season at Northeastern in 2005-06 before he transferred to Duquesne. James was named CAA Defensive Player of the Year that season, and deserved so as he averaged 6.5 blocks per game (along with averaging 12.4 points and 7.9 rebounds a game) and probably altered a lot more shots. He was truly a dominating presence from a shot blocking standpoint.
James then transferred to Duquesne when Ron Everhart moved from Northeastern to Duquesne, and is well known as being one of the five Dukes players shot on campus during a party in 2006. He came back this season and his scoring numbers basically stayed the same as he averaged 12.6 points. But as a whole his numbers dropped. He only averaged 6.9 rebounds a game and 4 blocks a game, down from his sophomore season. Even his shooting from the three point field dropped. I remember watching several Northeastern games and was impressed with his ability to shoot the three. In 2005-06, he shot 24 for 53 from beyond the three point arc for a 45 percent clip. This past season, James only shot 15 of 45 from three, a 33 percent clip.
Was this all due to his recovering from the foot injury from the shooting? Possibly a good part, but also some would say it is due to increased competition in the Atlantic 10. I don't know how much credence I would necessarily give that. In James' CAA sophomore season, he played against the likes of Old Dominion's Alex Loughton and Valdus Vasilyius, Hofstra's Adrian Uter, UNCW's Todd Hendley, and of course George Mason's Final Four big man tandem of Jai Lewis and Will Thomas. These players fare comparably to the players James faced in the A10 this season such as UMass’ Dante Milligan and Gary Forbes, Xavier’s Derrick Brown and Fordham’s Bryant Dunston. So James faced very good competition and seemingly had better stats his sophomore season.
A closer look at the stats shows a couple of other things. James had actually four 20 plus point games in his first 16 games, including his best game on December 5, a 20 point, 9 rebound 5 block performance against Pitt, the eventual Big East Tournament champion - certainly very good competition. His last 20 point game was a 21 point effort against GW on January 26 (he also had 5 blocks in that game). In his first 17 games, he had 12 games where he had 10 or more field goal attempts. In his last 11 games, he only had 3 games where he only had 10 or more field goal attempts. It wasn’t due to being fouled often. In his last 11 games, he only had one game with more than 6 free throw attempts, 8 vs. Richmond. As for it possibly being foul trouble, well James did not foul out of any of his last 11 games and only reached four fouls twice. Could it have been possibly due to teams double teaming him? Quite possibly, but there is another reason why.
James averaged four less minutes this season than his sophomore year. In fact, in his first 16 games, James played more than 30 minutes in four games. In his last 11 games, James did not even reach 30 minutes, playing 27 minutes twice, one of which was his highest scoring effort in those last 11 games, a 17 point effort vs. St Joe’s. This is due in large part to the Dukes having another big man, 6-10 240 pound Kieron Achara who averaged 19 minutes and 11 points per game. James was supposedly unhappy with his lack of minutes and understandably so. But possibly Everhart was trying to cut down on the wear and tear of James’ recovery from the foot injury.
So had James played more minutes, he quite possibly would have had better offensive stats. As is, James field goal percentage, 54.8 percent was better than his sophomore season. Chances are he might have had the same rebounding average. The blocks were definitely down, very likely due to his foot injury. In fact, he had 85 less blocks this season than his sophomore season, though he did have two double digit block games, 10 in the aforementioned St Joe’s game and 12 against Oakland.
As for James’ draft chances, well he is a very athletic 6-9, 6-10. He can shoot the three and is quite the shot blocker. But he has some weaknesses. My friend Tony Terentieff and I watched many of his games while he was at Northeastern, and we were in agreement that he doesn’t position himself well on rebounding. He also could use a little more bulk in his frame which results in him being pushed around by bigger centers. His post moves also could use some work.
Though he makes a very intriguing late second round draft pick, it was a mistake for James to first declare for the draft, then hire an agent. Though the A10 was vastly improved this year, it is still not an upper echelon conference. Combine that with the fact that based on his numbers, he didn’t even dominate the conference, the result is that teams will be very wary to draft him. James really needed to average close to a double double with his block total to be seriously considered draft material. He will have to do very well at workouts and at tournaments such as the Portsmouth Invitational to have any chance to be drafted. But he will definitely be a free agent in some NBA team’s camp. Still, he could have came back for his senior season and with dominant numbers, could have put himself in a better situation. But we will never know.