Jimmy’s blog: James struggling to live up to hype

By Jimmy Hyams

Josiah-Jordan James came to Tennessee as a heralded five-star recruit.

There was the potential, some said, of being a one-and-done player.

Tennessee has had one of those in history: Tobia Harris.

If the one-and-done have been prevalent years ago, Bernard King and Allan Houston might have turned pro after one year. Maybe even Ernie Grunfield.

Thus far, the 6-foot-6 James has not lived up to his hype, at least, not as a scorer.

Of the 30 five-star recruits who have played at least five college games, James is 20th in scoring at 7.5 points per game (thanks to the handy research of John Pennington of TV 6’s the Sports Source).

His high school coach called James a Swiss Army knife, a pass-first point guard who needed to improve his outside shooting.

Still, the expectation was he could be a double digit scorer, complementing Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden in the backcourt.

With Turner “retiring’’ after 11 games, it was thought James might pick up his scoring.

He has – but only slightly.

James had four consecutive double digit scoring games to start SEC play (he has eight overall), but in his last five games, he’s gone scoreless twice and had 4 points in another.

James was sidelined for almost a month by a hip injury in October. He recently missed three games with a groin injury.  So perhaps we are not seeing the best version of James.

Maybe next year he will be a double digit scorer.

Maybe he’ll have a 20-point game.

Maybe he’ll show more flashes of being a five-star.

While many would say James has been a major disappointment this season, he has done some things well.

For example, he leads UT in 3-point accuracy in SEC games by a wide margin – 45.5% on 15 of 33. Santiago Vescovi is the next most accurate at 38.3%. Jordan Bowden is hitting just 19.7% against SEC opponents.

Until his recent groin injury, James was leading Tennessee in rebounds at 6.0 per game. He now ranks second at 5.6.

But James clearly needs to be more aggressive. In the final minutes of the Auburn loss, he passed up a wide open 3 to drive to the basket and committed a turnover.

And he has attempted only 36 free throws in 687 minutes. Vescovi has attempted 42 in 439 minutes. Devonte Gaines has attempted 39 in 270 minutes.

But when compared to the other 30 five stars playing now, his numbers aren’t bad – just not as good as expected.

The scoring average for the 30 five stars is 10.7 points per game. James (7.5) ranks 20th.

The rebound average is 5.3. James (5.6) ranks 17th.

The assist average is 1.4. James (2.37) ranks 6th.

James is a solid all-around player. He just hasn’t been the scorer – or had the immediate impact – many thought.

As far as the best of the best, seven of the 30 five-stars are averaging over 15 points per game,  and 18 are averaging double digits. Ten are averaging at least 6 rebounds per game. And only two are averaging at least 3 assists.

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