Standing tall

Deanna Stevens

Second-year guard Kerrie James becomes team’s most improved

Junior guard Kerrie James was voted Most Improved Player of the Year for the Flashes after the 2004-2005 season. She averages six points per game and is now a starter. The Flashes (15-7, 8-3 Mid-American Conference) host the Ohio Bobcats at 7 p.m. tonigh

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

The Kent State women’s basketball team’s most improved player from last season has increased her minutes, points scored and shooting average this season to strengthen her game and impact the team.

“I felt honored when I was named most improved,” junior guard Kerrie James said. “My freshman year was rough, so I went home and worked hard. And they saw that I was working to improve my game.”

James, who only played 70 minutes her freshman year, has also increased her scoring average to 3.6 points a game after scoring only seven points last year.

According to James, a major improvement was her mindset. She said she worked on being more aggressive than her tentative days as a freshman. Being a freshman was intimidating enough, but the Canadian native also had to get used to the American style of play, she said. While fundamentals were the same, the pace of the game was different.

“The main difference is it’s a lot faster here and not as physical,” she said. “You could be less aggressive and still do well.”

Kent State coach Bob Lindsay said he agrees her attitude was one of the biggest improvements.

“She improved her attitude toward playing,” Lindsay said. “As a freshman she was tentative and afraid of competing, which was typical of Canadian players.”

Lindsay added James’ increase in conditioning and confidence was another reason she earned the team’s most improved honors.

Having the challenge of guarding some of the best shooting guards in the Mid-American Conference has also helped her get into that aggressive mentality.

“She usually guards the other teams’ best wing guard,” Lindsay said, adding that James’ defensive intensity on the opposing teams’ guard has been a major asset to the team.

But her journey to the place she is now was one atypical to most basketball players. For starters, she did not start playing basketball until the eighth grade. After playing a multitude of other sports, she took her teacher’s suggestion to try basketball.

She then planned on taking advantage of a fifth-year option offered to Canadian high school students. The policy, called Ontario Academic Credit, gave seniors the option to stay in high school an extra year to help them decide the next step they wanted to take.

“I planned on staying in high school for another year,” James said. “But I came for a visit, and with the make-up of the team, I knew I could make an impact here.”

James said her defensive aggressiveness has helped shape her offensive play with the Flashes. She averaged 18 points and 10 assists her junior year at Michael Power/ St. Joseph’s High School, where she was named the most valuable player on the team.

“She has got very good quickness, and she is very strong,” Lindsay said. “I tell her all the time she needs to use her athleticism and strength to her advantage (on the offensive end).”

James said last season’s MAC tournament allowed her to show her impact on the team, as she was able to play significant minutes.

“All season long we’ve been working on things we need to fix,” James said. “And we will definitely need these last few games to iron out some things. But if we end (the regular season) on a winning streak, that will give us more confidence in the tournament. We’ll take care of what we need to take care of.”

James and the rest of the Flashes will play at 7 p.m. tonight at the M.A.C. Center against Ohio.

Contact women’s basketball reporter Deanna

Stevens at [email protected].