Mike James was the most exciting player in the gym on opening day of the Seattle Pro Am – Tony Wroten included. Everything about his game screamed superior; his handle, his demeanor, his shooting motion and most notably his athleticism. This kid has NBA athleticism and there’s no doubt about that.
James is originally from Portland, but has played many, many places since he left Grant High School as one of the top players in the state. James started at Eastern Arizona University where he played so well in his two seasons there that he was able to transfer to NCAA Division I Lamar University in Texas. He was able to shine at Lamar as well, and in his senior season, he averaged 17.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists. What's more, he still holds the single-game scoring mark with a 52-point outburst against Louisiana College.
After going undrafted, James went to Croatia and signed with KK Zagreb, though that didn’t last long, unfortunately. He only played nine games with KK Zagreb, but still averaged 19.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists in only 28.7 minutes per contest. After leaving Croatia, James signed to play for Hapoel Gilboa Galil in Israel, and then for Paffoni Omegna of Italy – becoming the first ever American signed by Omegna in the process. Last season, he played 33 games for Paffoni Omegna averaging 21.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting a blistering 56.3 percent from the floor.
Fast forward to now, and Mike James is leading a team that is making history in the Seattle Pro Am. The Pop Chips Pilots are the first team in Seattle Pro Am history competing from another city – Portland. The team is coached by Sam Thompson and, James (along with co-star Nik Raivio) brings in a confident bunch to compete. How confident? In the press conference, Thompson had a bold prediction: "We are going to win the championship and Mike James will be the MVP of this league".
That might seem like conjecture, until you see James play. Ridiculous Upside spoke with James and when asked if he agrees with his coach he said, "I imagine we will get everyone’s best game", and with a sly grin he continued "As for the MVP talk, I’ll let the games work that out".
James’ Pilots opened the weekend against the Up Top Huskies , who featured University of Nevada-Reno alum Marcelus Kemp – the team will also have Maine Red Claws guard Abdul Gaddy, but he was not there for this game. James finished with 27 points and six rebounds, but made his mark with two ridiculous highlights – a poster dunk and a chase-down block a la LeBron James.
The Pilots continued their winning ways on Sunday as they beat the DRG Wolverines, who are led by none other than Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers. At halftime the Wolverines were up 57-56 and it looked like it would be a very close game, but then James exploded for 14 points in the 3rd quarter and blew the game wide open. The two marquee players were guarding each other the entire game, which made for a great show for the fans. The Pilots ended up winning comfortably 119-97 and Mike finished with a game high 37 points, while Jamal had 30 (only 5 in the second half).
James and the Pilots definitely delivered on their bold predictions for the first week of this eight-week marathon of a league as they went 2-0 on the weekend and James averaged 32 points per game over those two contests. Who knows if the Pilots will win the championship or if James will be league MVP -- but one thing we do know is James is going to provide SportsCenter worthy highlights each and every week.