Category: Sports Published on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 17:09 Written by Leland Stein III
Detroit Public School League (PSL) girls basketball has been a noteworthy conduit for sending young ladies to college for too many years to recount.
So when the former Mackenzie High (three years) and Mumford High (one year) hoopster Tavelyn James ascended to the record books in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and Eastern Michigan University, it was not a complete surprise.
What is surprising and exciting is that James has exceeded beyond all expectation, maybe even hers.
The four-year EMU star recently was named the 2012 recipient of the valued Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, presented annually to the nation’s outstanding female collegian 5-feet-8-inches and under who has excelled both athletically and academically.
It does not stop there for the 5-foot-6 senior guard, she finished the 2011-12 season as the second leading scorer in the nation, behind superstar Elena Delle Donne of Delaware, who put up 27.9 points per game. James tied with two others at an average of 23.8 points each night.
There is more. As James finished her stellar career at EMU as its all-time leading scorer. She has produced five of the top scoring games in program history, tossing in school records 42 (in 2011), another three 40 points games (two in 2010 and one in 2012) and a 39 point outing in 2009. She also set the EMU’s single-season scoring record as a sophomore, as a junior and as a senior.
Oh yeah, there is even more! James garnered MAC Tournament MVP honors with her performance over the final two days of the event. The Detroit native poured in 21.0 points and 3.5 rebounds per game in an average of 40 minutes per game.
EMU Ladies, with James scoring prowess as it linchpin, won close games in the MAC Tournament over Toledo (59-57) and Central Michigan (72-71) to earn a valued spot in the Women’s NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately they got pasted versus South Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in West Lafayette, Ind.
The EMU’s women’s basketball team returned to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the program’s history. The first time the ladies played in the NCAA’s was 2004. The EMU Lady Eagles contest was shown regionally on ESPN2, but James and her teammates did not have their best overall game. No matter, James became the first Eastern Michigan player to be named the MAC Player of the Year.
In October, she also became the first MAC player — man or woman — to earn a spot on the roster of the USA women’s basketball team that will participate in the 2011 Pan American Games, Oct. 21-25, in Guadalajara, Mexico. She became the only the EMU player to compete in the event, and also the first student-athlete from a Mid-American Conference institution to be selected for the team’s roster.
“I just signed a contract with an agent.” James told me in an interview. “The word is I should get drafted. I know my size has been a question mark, but I am as fast as any player in the WNBA. I know I can compete if given a chance.
“Sure I won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award and so did Lindsay Harding and Kara Lawson, so I know if they give me a chance I will be successful. Basketball is about height, but it is also about heart and determination and I think I have both. If I do not make it to the WNBA, I would love to play in Europe. They really appreciate women’s basketball over there.”
Eastern Michigan coach AnnMarie Gilbert was the only one to show up with a scholarship offer for James after she dominated the PSL.
Gilbert told James: “If you come here, you have a chance to play for USA Basketball, you’ll have a chance to win MAC championships, you’ll have a chance to be an All-American and lead the nation in scoring. But she was like, ‘Yeah, right.’”
James’ major was in health administration and she would like to work in that field if basketball does not work out.
“In 2005 my sister was diagnosed with MS,” she said, “so that is why I would like to major in health administration. When that happened to her I could not do anything so that is why I would like to make a difference in the health field.”
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