Though hardly a one-man team, the Porter-Gaud boys basketball squad is undeniably reliant on one player.
KJ James, a 6-5 senior, is a fifth-year starter on the varsity squad and is more than shouldering a heavy load for the 15-6 Cyclones, averaging 27.3 points and 13.1 rebounds per game.
Porter-Gaud coach John Pearson said James knew more would be expected from him this season, especially since the 2013-14 roster included eight sophomores and a freshman.
"We sat down before the season and I told KJ that we were young but we had a chance to be a pretty good team," said Pearson. "I also told him that for us to be good, we had to ride his shoulders more than we had in the past.
"He has been a very important player and a big contributor since he came to the varsity as an eighth-grader, but I asked him to raise his level even higher this year. He has responded about as well as I could have expected. He really carried this team while those young guys learned and grew up."
The younger players have gradually improved and have been able to take some of the pressure off James.
Senior center Michael Preddy is a solid inside performer, while James handles the leadership on the wing. However, this is still James' team and how he plays usually determines success or failure.
"I understand what is expected and what I have to do to help us win," said James, who recently scored his 2,000th career point. "It's my senior year and I want to win. All of my focus is on getting to the (SCISA) finals and playing in the last game. I feel like I have always played hard. I guess it's just more noticed this year."
James is generally regarded as one of the area's top players and has been considered a Division I prospect. However, he has yet to receive an official Division I offer, despite getting plenty of interest. Pearson has an explanation.
"KJ switched AAU teams right in the middle of the summer last year and I think that hurt him in terms of his recruiting," said Pearson. "I'm shocked, to be honest, that he doesn't have several offers. He can definitely play at the mid-major level. I think the offers are coming. There is plenty of interest."
Pearson said Temple, The Citadel, Winthrop and Hofstra have shown the most interest lately. He said James isn't concerned about his college options right now.
"He's not stressing at all," Pearson said. "The kid is a workhorse. He is working harder now than he ever has and it's not a distraction. I'm sure he's anxious to get the process done, but it has not affected his play at all. He's working hard every day and he's leading this team."
Porter-Gaud's KJ James cuts to the basket against Wando during the Rotary Roundball Classic Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 at North Charleston High School. Paul Zoeller/Staff×
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