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James commits to Stanford, senior year up first

By: Matt Long
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Colleges have been after Oak Ridge High senior Sara James since she was a freshman playing on the varsity girls’ basketball team. Earlier this summer, James ended all the speculation by verbally accepting a full scholarship to attend Stanford University. James, a 5’10” guard, found out she was accepted to Stanford in early June and a few weeks later told the school she would attend. “Stanford’s different in that you have to be accepted there before the coaches can offer scholarships,” James said. “It’s a good basketball college (the team made it to the Final Four last season) and it’s obviously a good academic college.” While Stanford is known for its high academic standards and the women’s basketball program is among the best in the country, for James, it came down to people. “When I visited the school I wanted to be sure I fit in,” James said. “I really liked the coaches. Tara VanDerveer, the head coach, is a hall of famer, and the assistant coaches were nice. I hung out with the players for a while and asked them questions. I also toured the campus.” James had many colleges to choose from and narrowed the field to Cal, Arizona State, USC and UCLA. All but UCLA offered her a full scholarship but in the end Stanford was her choice. James’ coach at Oak Ridge, Steve White, is proud of her. “I think deep down she always wanted to go to Stanford,” White said. “She’s worked really hard to achieve that, working on improving her ball-handling and 3-point shooting. She’s got a bright future ahead of her.” Since verbally committing to Stanford, James has played lots of basketball. Her AAU team from Just Believe Sports played in four tournaments throughout July and only lost once, finishing with 20 wins and a pair of tournament titles. The team won tournaments in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, finished second in another in Oregon where they suffered their only loss, and reached the championship game of a tournament in Chicago, which they forfeited because they had to catch a flight. “I really wanted to work on my ball-handling and mid-range shot and I’ve done that,” James said of her summertime goals. “I want to improve in every area.” James’ hard work doesn’t surprise White. “Sara’s got two speeds, fast and faster or hard and harder, whichever way you want to look at it,” White said. “She’s relentless. When she puts her mind to something, she’s going to achieve it.” While James has plenty of time to figure out what she wants to do later in her life, she said right now she’s wants to study something in the sports field at Stanford, possibly sports psychology. Before that, of course, her senior year awaits her at Oak Ridge, where she will attempt to lead the team to a second consecutive Division II section championship.