James Looks to Provide Veteran Leadership as a Rookie

by Cody Cunningham

Mike James has been through a long journey since going undrafted in 2012, but after inking his first official NBA contract last week, the point guard looks to provide professional leadership to the Summer Suns.

It’s rare to look to a rookie for leadership, but at 26-years-old and playing professionally overseas for the past five season, James can help mentor players like Dragan Bender (19 years old), Marquese Chriss (20), Josh Jackson (20) and Derrick Jones Jr. (20).

“I’m old for this team,” James said. “I can try to be a leader, a veteran. I’m experienced even though I haven’t played in the NBA. I have some knowledge to give. I’m just trying to go out there and be a pro.”

Head Coach Earl Watson said that James’ veteran experience overseas was a large part of why the Suns brought him onto such a young team.

“We wanted to make sure we had a point guard who can help our young guys play better,” Watson said. “To have a young point guard with a young group of players, it might take away from their ability to improve as a team as the schedule goes on. With Mike, he can settle the team down and take over if he has to.”

James had no problem taking over in the Suns first Summer League game of 2017. He finished the game with 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds in a win over the Sacramento Kings.

Mike James with the Vicious Throwdown vs Kings

“He can play above the rim for his size,” Watson said. “He’s very strong and quick. He’s a very effective scorer. He has this amazing quickness with strength that’s hard to compare to any player.”

This is James’ second time playing for the Suns during Summer League. In 2015, James made his name known to Suns fans after scoring 32 points in the Championship game against the San Antonio Spurs. This made for a homecoming when James signed his contract last week in Phoenix.

“It was good to do it here,” James said. “I had a lot of friends in the organization that I got to know. It’s fun to be here. It’s fun to come to an organization where you already know everybody.”

James and Suns will continue their Summer League action as they gear up to face the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday. Catch the action on ESPN.

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