By David Cordova
Every summer in New York, you see plenty of kids in summer leagues all around the five boroughs, especially when the AAU tournaments around the county are not in session. The streetball scene for high schoolers has become large within the past couple of years due to highlights and MC’s. It is safe to say, that the high school division is now the unlimited (College/Pro) division. Throughout the summer, people marvel at the moves, the dunks and all the plays that are made during these games.
One player that has made a habit out of making highlight-reel plays since his younger days is Ja’Quaye James. A rising junior at Teaneck High School in Teaneck, NJ, he is a wizard with the ball and uses his quickness to blow past taller defenders and also has a good jumper to match his game.
In order to understand him as a player, first one must look at James as a person as well. “I grew up playing my whole life and I’ve been having fun, but now, it’s starting to become a business. I want to go to college and get a free education, finish with that and then after that play pro basketball somewhere.”
Although he plays high school ball in the Garden State, James was born and raised in Harlem, NY. “Being from Harlem, just being from New York, period, gives you a different kind of attitude, a different kind of grit, like, you’re just hungry, like you just grew up seeing a lot of people saying, ‘New York guards just want to dribble and everything.’ I’m just different because I can do a little bit of everything. I can run a team, I can shoot the ball well and I can also dribble too, so it’s like it’s just a little different.”
His views on the difference on basketball between New York and New Jersey: “The difference is like in New York, it’s going to be a little more tougher and a little bit more freelance. If you come across the water, it’s a little more structured, people got real basketball games. In New York, you’ll find a kid who just wakes up in the morning and goes to play, but in Jersey, you’ll find a couple of people who will actually work out and stuff like that.”
This past year, as a sophomore, James led the Highwaymen to a 29-4 record and a New Jersey Group III state championship, while averaging 18.3 points per game and also reaching an incredible milestone of 1,000 points in his high-school career. “My sophomore season at Teaneck was tremendous. It started off really good and we finished off really well, too, so it was just a good experience and a great year overall.”
And the action didn’t stop with the high school season, as James took his act to the AAU circuit playing for the New Jersey Playaz, based out of Paterson, NJ, who play on the Nike EYBL circuit, and boasts NBA alums such as Vince Carter, Kobe Bryant, Tim Thomas, J.R. Smith (Cleveland Cavaliers), Wayne Ellington (Los Angeles Lakers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors and Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and amongst its current collegiate alums, Kentucky sophomore Isaiah Briscoe.
When asked about the feeling of playing for such a legendary program, James replied, “Playing for the Playaz is like a tremendous experience, a good feeling, and it puts you in a position to where you have to play well, because everybody’s always coming at you. You just have to bring your A game at all times.”
Throughout the summer on the 16U level, James teamed up Bishop Loughlin (NY) guard Markquis Nowell, Immaculate Conception guard Jalen Carey and Linden guard Tavon Jones to form a great quartet of guards that steamrolled through their competition, winning a title at events like the Boo Williams tournament in Hampton, Virginia and having a strong finish in the Elite Eight at the prestigious Nike Peach Jam event in North Augusta, South Carolina.
In regards to his college recruitment, he holds an offer from Monmouth, and interest from schools such as Rutgers, Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, Iona, Stony Brook, Hofstra, South Florida and Boston University.
He credits his development to his upbringing playing outdoors, stating that, “It helped me overall. A lot of people know me when I walk into the gym, and want to see me play. I get excited and I just want to put on a good performance.”
His goals now are to get more interest and more offers and to just get better and better. With the type of talent that he possesses, there’s no telling that he will continue to evolve.
Highlights of Ja’Quaye James:
Courtesy of NJ Sports Scene.
Courtesy of NJ Hoop Recruit.