PITTSBURGH -- Maybe it was a natural fit for shot blocker
Shawn James, one of college basketball's best defensive players
choosing to play in a city that has long prized defense.
James, who led major college basketball by averaging 6.5 blocks last season for Northeastern, will transfer to Duquesne so he can keep playing for coach Ron Everhart.
Landing the 6-foot-10 James -- so skilled defensively that former Celtics star K.C. Jones has compared him to a young Bill Russell --
is a coup for Everhart. James must sit out a season after
James was chosen as the Colonial Athletic Association defensive player of the year after averaging 12.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and blocking 196 shots as a sophomore last season. His 332 career blocks are among the most in NCAA history for a second-year player.
When Everhart moved from Northeastern to Duquesne last month,
James weighed whether he wanted to stay with Northeastern and play
for a new coach in another system.
"It was the hardest thing because I wasn't sure if Northeastern
was where I wanted to be at," James told The Associated Press. "I
made my decision on my coach and how much I love playing for him.
It will definitely help playing against higher competition, and
that's more exposure for me -- and that's something I don't feel I
had on a nightly basis at Northeastern."
James had five games of 10 blocks or more last season and had
more than double the 92 blocks of Duquesne's entire team. It's no
coincidence that one of his best friends is Florida star Joakim Noah, whose athleticism and defensive skills led the Gators to the
"When we work out together, we'll work on post moves, everything, " James said of Noah, whom he has known since high school. "It's like he said, we want to be like the new age of big
men -- we want to shoot it, we want to put it on the floor, we want
to block it, we want to do everything."
James has an excellent outside shooting touch for a big man,
making 24-of-53 3-point attempts last season.
James, who played only one season of high school basketball in Brooklyn and another at Notre Dame Prep, was impressed with new
Northeastern coach Bill Coen, but wanted to stay with a system and
coach he knew.
"I think every player realistically wants to play in the next
level, and that's something I want to do," James said. "I feel
that if I did what I did this year in a higher conference, I
wouldn't be talking transferring right now, I'm talking NBA."
Adding James nearly completes an almost top-to-bottom overhaul
by Everhart of a school-worst 3-24 team last season under former
coach Danny Nee.
James will eventually join a roster that includes freshman guard Stephen Wood of Monsignor McClancy High School in Queens, N.Y., and forward Stuard Baldonado of Miami Dade Community College.