HOUSTON, Texas - College is a period of time dedicated to learning, but life forced Christian James to begin his lessons from the sidelines as a freshman.
James played just two games his senior high school season after breaking his leg.
He then overcame an ankle injury this season before battling his way into the lineup.
“It was kind of frustrating at the beginning of the year, trying to getting my leg right, keeping my weight down and stuff like that,” James said. “It’s definitely a great experience. I’ve learned a lot just sitting on the bench just watching the game. From high school to college is two different aspects.”
“Christian has really had a couple outstanding games here the last three weeks,” Lon Kruger, OU head basketball coach, said. “During the year I think he was ready to do that when he rolled his ankle, and that set him back for a couple three games. From a confidence stand point it took a little time to get back, but he has a good feel for the game. Just a really young, good player that’s going to get better and better.”
Almost every part of James’ game has jumped recently.
A possible reason for the jump could be OU superstar Buddy Hield.
James is keeping up the best he can with one of the best players in the country.
“He’s a work horse,” James said. “I just try to imitate so many things that he does. Even shooting the ball. He shoots the same way every time. It’s crazy. It’s just repetition and confidence. It’s always confidence with him.”
“He’s going to be good, but he has to keep working hard,” Hield said. “If you don’t work hard and be humble with everything, you’re not going to make it. Time will tell, but he has to want it more than he’s ever wanted it.”
“He’s treating him like a little brother,” Lew Hill, OU assistant coach, said. “He’s beating him up in practice. Christian’s going back at him. Little fun trash talking like brothers do, but he’s teaching him at the same time. Telling him what to do, what not to do. But then at the same time, Christian’s been a competitor. To learn, sometimes you have to go at your big brother, you know?”
NRG Stadium is a short car ride from James’ former turf at Bellaire High School, where he was district MVP two years ago.
As for the present, he imagined a possible fairy tale ending just down the road from home, but it still hasn’t quite set in.
“I never would have thought, man,” James said. “It’s crazy because from the jump we were always talking about road to Houston. In my head, you think, I’m a freshman, but it’s like we’re really here. It’s unreal. I’ll never get this moment back, so I’m just trying to soak it all in right now. When that ball goes in it’s just all business. People were calling me saying we got to get this win. I’ll never get a chance like this again. Playing in my home city for a national championship. I’ll never get this moment back."