Isaiah James moves the ball up the floor during Brandon Bobcats practice. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
The Brandon University Bobcats are sending out a warning to any Canada West men’s basketball player trying to drive the paint this season to watch out for Isaiah James.
Although he was with the team last year, the 30-year-old from San Jose, Calif., wasn’t playing anywhere close to his potential. Hobbled by an off-season ankle injury, James played in 17 games last season and averaged 17.7 minutes of court time. Despite not being completely healthy, James still led the Bobcats with 22 blocked shots and his average of 1.3 per game was fourth best in conference play.
The 6-foot-7, 207-pound post continued his rehabilitation over the summer and feels like he’s completely healthy now in training camp. That isn’t good news for opponents as James is focused on improving the Bobcats at both ends of the court.
"I want to score a little bit more," he said. "Try and pick it up a little bit more on the defensive end and help us become a stronger defensive team. Just make our team get better."
James first came to the Bobcats for the 2010-11 season, in which he was named the team’s most valuable player and set a Canada West single-game record for most blocks with eight. He left the squad the following year but returned for last season and had no doubts about finishing off his CIS eligibility this season in Brandon.
Bobcats head coach Gil Cheung loves what James brings to the team and he’s impressed with how his big veteran post is playing so far in training camp.
"He’s in there, he’s active, he’s talking, he’s got quick hands and is getting a lot of deflections," Cheung said. "He has great timing when he blocks shots. He rotates well on the defensive end and with his experience playing at different levels, he sees the game pretty well and he has great anticipation as well.
"He almost led the conference in blocked shots playing in barely 50 per cent of the games and limited minutes. Hopefully this year he can build on that. We know what he could do three years ago."
With James not at full strength last season, the Bobcats struggled to a 6-16 record and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight year.
But the Bobcats feel confident about this year after only losing two players in the off-season. With all the familiarity among the players, James has set a goal to not only make the playoffs, but to play host to a first-round series at BU’s Healthy Living Centre.
He believes the team can do it and has extra motivation as he is planning to retire from basketball at the end of the season.
"It’s real important," he said. "This is it. I’m not trying to go overseas or anything after this. This is my last year of playing basketball and I’m done, so I want to end on a good note."
The Bobcats, who dropped their exhibition opener to the Minot State Beavers, have a month of practices before playing host to the Western Mustangs on Oct. 10 and the Windsor Lancers on Oct. 13 in pre-season play at BU.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 10, 2013