Boys Basketball: Jalen James wins showdown with Z-B sensation Milik Yarbrough
Updated: December 19, 2011 8:59PM
Jalen James opened the scoring for Hope Academy on Monday with a three-pointer banked in off the glass. A lucky shot most likely, and an indication that the good fortune that grasped James this summer has not worn off.
James, a 6-3 junior, rose from obscurity to Illinois recruit this summer. He demonstrated why on Monday, displaying numerous high-level skills as he led the Eagles to a 73-55 win over Zion-Benton at the Jacobs Holiday Tournament.
"It all started for me when I played for Mike Mullins and the Illinois Wolves," James said. "He told me to not turn the ball over and keep everyone involved. Good things just kept happening after that."
James scored 17 points, grabbed three steals and dished out five assists for Hope Academy (11-1). He also played a key role in the Eagles committing just seven turnovers.
"That was a really good game for us as far as turnovers," James said. "We've turned it over 20 or so times in other games this season."
The Eagles as a team--in only their fourth season of varsity basketball-- are looking to gain some of the same respect James has earned. They finished 20-11 last season, losing in the playoffs to Newark, the eventual Class 1A state champion.
"The state championship is our goal this year," James said. "And I guarantee we are going to win it. You heard it here first."
James has a strong supporting cast, including Tyrone Smith (18 points), sophomore Carson Hughes (nine points), 6-5 Colin Blaydes (eight points, seven rebounds) and 6-6 Torrance Johnson (four points, eight rebounds).
The Eagles (11-1) took control of the game with an 11-2 run to open the second quarter.
Zion-Benton (5-6) played without starter Mario Burt, but were not lacking for firepower. Sophomore Malik Yarbrough demonstrated why he is considered one of the elite players in the country.
The 6-6 forward scored 20 points, most in impressive fashion, while grabbing nine rebounds.
"Yarbrough is special," Hope Academy coach Mike Edwards said. "I'm not sure he's even conscious of how good he is yet."
Curtis Cook, a 6-8 senior, added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Zee-Bees.