Nov. 9, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- A year ago, the buzz around Florida State men's basketball player Bernard James was that he was a military man; a former staff sergeant in the United States Air Force.
A year later, the buzz around James is that he's college basketball's next big thing.
In his first season as a Seminole, James averaged 8.6 points per game while showing signs of improvement over the course of the season. While his role and importance to FSU gradually increased, the main knock on the 6-foot-10, 240-pounder was that he was still raw and still in need of time to hone his skills on the basketball court after getting such a late start in the sport.
Now 26 years old and just a few days away from the start of his second and final season with the 'Noles, the Seminoles' 2011-12 opponents are about to witness the results of James' offseason regimen of hard work and further improvement firsthand.
Seminoles.com: From a basketball standpoint, what has changed for you in the last year?
James: "I am a completely different player. Down to the core I still do the same things but my efficiency has picked up and my skill level has increased a lot. Because I picked up basketball so late I wasn't that skilled. But I have been picking things up very quickly and I have been soaking up the coaching like a sponge. I think it's going to show when the season starts."
Seminoles.com: What was the main thing that you needed improve upon above all else?
James: "The whole thing for me last year was my left hand. The television commentators figured it out but the opponents never did for some reason. If anybody would have cut off my left hand last year I would have been pretty useless -- at least on offense. Not too many people figured that out, luckily. My theme of this summer was "right hand." Everything that I could do on the basketball court with my left hand last year I can now do with my right hand comfortably. I felt like that was huge for me because after having a year of experience and a year of game film to watch, people would have figured it out. I also have been working on free throws. I aiming for the 65 to 70-percent range this year. That's around what I have been shooting this offseason. Those were the two main things for me to focus on."
A: "Towards the end of the year in the few games where Chris was hurt, I felt like a lot of responsibility fell on me. I knew for sure that with him and Derwin gone I was going to have to take on a much bigger role this year. That was my motivation this summer to just be the best player I can be for my teammates and not let them down. I have been working hard to help take over for those guys and to help make the team better."
Seminoles.com: What should FSU men's basketball fans expect to see this season?
A:"Even though we lost two great players in Derwin and Chris, I actually feel like we are going to be better this year. We have worked a lot this offseason. I feel like everybody is hungry. Getting to the Sweet 16 and then losing by one possession, we know we were supposed to be in the Elite Eight but we let it slip away. We won't repeat that same mistake this coming year."