Justin James Focused On Proving Wyoming Skeptics Wrong, Prepping For Pro Career
James, a senior, will lead the Cowboys into the ’18-19 season
James was named to the preseason all-conference team at the league’s media day
For Justin James, returning to Wyoming as a senior means far more than just improving his NBA Draft stock.
James was named a preseason Mountain West First Team selection at the conference’s media day, but James is focused on the skeptics who picked Wyoming to finish seventh in the league after a 20-win year.
“I’m a very competitive player and so when we’re ranked seventh in the conference I kind of take that as a stab in the back of my ability and my team’s ability,” James told Mountain West Wire.
The 6-7 guard out of Port Saint Lucie, Florida, was heralded by many at the media summit as one of the league’s elite players. James is the conference’s returning scorer at 18.9 points per game, but he’s the only returning everyday starter and the sole double-digit scorer on a largely inexperienced roster.
Coach Allen Edwards was forced to part with seniors Hayden Dalton, Alan Herndon, Lou Adams, and Alex Aka Gorski this offseason, a major loss both on and off the floor for the Cowboys. The senior quartet combined to tally more than 57 percent of Wyoming’s nightly offensive output.
The 2018-19 roster isn’t bare, though. Hunter Maldonado is a sophomore slasher with a great deal of potential. Hunter Thompson is a 6-10 big man who redshirted last season. Austin Mueller, Jordan Naughton and Ny Redding provide depth and Jake Hendricks, A.J. Banks and Lwal Dung are talented JUCO products.
“It’s a great team that we have and with my ability to lead us to win games I think we’ll definitely surprise some people,” James said about his team’s potential.
As anticipated, James remained adamant when posed with NBA-related questions, but it’s definitely something that’s in the back of his mind.
“I don’t wake up thinking about the NBA, but I see it as motivation. In my mind, I’m talented enough to play in the NBA,” James said during the media summit in Las Vegas.
As a pro prospect, the main concerns regarding James’ game are centered around his build and jump-shooting ability. James said he has added 15 pounds over the offseason, getting one step closer to an NBA-ready body type. Athleticism, intangibles, basketball I.Q. and effort have been well-documented as James’ main strengths.
As for now, though, the senior has centered his attention on the present – his final season in a Wyoming uniform.
“Right now I’m focused on our team and winning as many games as possible.”
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.