The Recruiting Guy:

Parents instill education value into UA basketball target

By: Richard Davenport
Published: Friday, August 14, 2020

University of Arkansas basketball target Michael James learned early on that his parents, Douglas and Serena, didn’t play around when it came to academics.

“Ever since I was young, if you didn’t have the grades you weren’t allowed to play,” said James, who has a 4.0 grade-point average. “My mom and my dad instilled that in me when I was really young.”

James, 6-6, 195 pounds, of Orlando (Fla.) Oak Ridge has 15 scholarship offers from schools such as Arkansas, Louisville, North Carolina State, TCU, Virginia Tech, St. John’s, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and others. He plans to announce his college decision Sept. 9.

He got a wake-up call in the sixth grade when he struggled with a music class.

“I took band, and I think I had a trumpet and the only way to get a good grade in that class was if you passed the music test,” James said. “I was having a hard time in that class.”

He had a C grade on his first marking, which covered the first two months of the school year. With basketball season about to start, his mother put her foot down.

“I was a tall sixth-grader,” James said. “I think I was probably around 6-2 or 6-3, and my coach was already telling me you’re going to be on the team. You’re going to be one of the best players because I was really skilled at a young age.

“I was hyped for the season and was getting ready for the season, and my mom saw that report card and she was like ‘You’re not even going to be allowed to try out.’ She told me that, and I had to get on it.

“Even though I wasn’t talented, she made me go and practice on the instrument and make sure I passed my test so I could get an A or a B. She said I wasn’t going to be able to play sports if I had a C on my report card.”

James hasn’t made a C since.

“I made sure I didn’t have a C on my report card,” he said. “I was able to be on the team because I brought it up by progress report. Whatever she says goes. I didn’t have a choice.”

Oak Ridge Coach Steve Reece, who has coached James for two years, said his parents have done an excellent job of preparing James for life.

“He’s never been late to a workout or practice,” Reece said. “He works just as hard in the classroom. His discipline is like none other. A very disciplined kid and wants to be great. You can tell the core values they instilled early in his childhood, it’s paid off. He’s ‘Yes sir, yes ma’am.’

“He’s definitely a kid you want in your program.”

While his mother can show tough love at times, James calls himself a momma’s boy.

“My mom is like my right-hand man,” James said. “She’s my queen. I’ll do anything for my mom to see her happy. That’s why I go so hard in basketball. She works every day for me to have a good life. She works really hard for me, and she always made sure I had everything that I needed so I just want to pay her back through this basketball stuff.”

On Mother’s Day, James and his sisters treated his mother with a gift certificate for a local day spa. James also cooked her breakfast.

“My dad really shows me how to treat a woman, so that’s why you saw when I made that stuff for my mom on Mother’s Day,” James said.

Prior to getting his own transportation, James said his father was with him at all times during his basketball travels.

“Before that, he’s been to every training session, every game,” James said. “Every time we traveled, he would be the one to take me. I can’t tell you how many times we traveled out of state to go to AAU tournaments. He never missed a game.

“I wouldn’t be in this position without my dad, either. He played a huge role in my success.”

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