Incoming UNC freshman Joel James is in Colorado Springs, CO trying out for the U.S. U18 Basketball team which is slated to participate in the FIBA Americas Championship later this month. James, who has undergone a major physical transformation in terms of his weight and conditioning caught the eye of Draft Express' Jonathan Ginvoy who was observing the tryouts.
The knock on James through much his high school career was his conditioning. Reports had him at 310 lbs and out of shape until recent months where James has taken his conditioning seriously. His play in the All-American Championship in New Orleans during the Final Four offered a glimpse of how far he had come. It would appear, based on Ginvoy seeing him at the Team USA tryouts, James has continued to develop. Couple that with a picture he posted of himself from earlier in the week(on his private account so I will not re-post) James has made significant progress preparing himself for college basketball.
At this stage it is nearly impossible to set expectations for James. First of all, there has been very limited observation of James at his current weight and level of conditioning. Secondly, he is still a little raw offensively regardless of the strides made in his stamina, size and strength. In addition foul trouble could be a concern. In that respect I would hesitate to pile too many expectations on him, at least until we see more.
All of that being said, James looks like a player with upside and untapped potential. It is clear he has developed an impressive work ethic which will serve him well once he reaches Chapel Hill. James is scheduled to arrive at UNC with his fellow freshmen teammates for the beginning of the second session of summer school. That means he can begin working with strength coach Jonas Sahratian to further develop his body, in particular his vertical leap. James will also benefit from playing pick-up games with former and current UNC players.
All in all, I think the chatter around James gives plenty of reasons to be optimistic that he could possibly outperform his ranking coming out of high school and give the Heels an imposing physical post presence.