F.C.’s Ladeja James also hitting books down the stretch

VIRGINIA BEACH

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Ladeja James put her foot down.

It was time to tighten up in the classroom if she expected to continue her basketball career after high school.

“I’ve struggled in the past … my first three years actually,” said James, a senior guard at First Colonial and South Hampton Roads’ leading scorer. “This year I’m doing way better. I know that it’s crunch time and I have to make up for a little lost ground.

“This year has been all about the books first and then basketball.”

James has the basketball stuff down. A four-year starter, she is a member of the top Boo Williams AAU team, a two-time All-Tidewater first-team selection and the school’s career scoring leader.

First Colonial coach Larry Bowman said James is the best all-around player he’s coached – a lofty statement from South Hampton Roads’ winningest girls basketball coach.

“She can do everything,” Bowman said. “I’ve had some talented players and several Division I players when I was at (Norfolk) Catholic. She understands the game.”

Maybe because she has spent most of her life on the court.

“I’ve been playing since the fifth grade,” said James, who averages 21.8 points per game. “I wasn’t too good back then but I tried to work hard. I’d play in the backyard with my cousins and was the only girl. They didn’t take it easy on me at all, but I think that really helped me.”

In turn, James has helped her team consistently contend.

James is an excellent passer and scorer, can run the point with the best of them, often guards the other team’s best player and has a career free throw shooting average above 80 percent.

Great attributes, but possibly not her best.

“Her best skill actually is making everybody else better,” Bowman said. “We’re not a great basketball team, but Deja has helped everybody improve tremendously.

“I know she makes me a better coach and makes me look good.”

James – who sports a rose tattoo with her mother’s name (Dana Harris) on one shoulder and a basketball with a crown and the words “Queen James” on her other in honor of her favorite pro, LeBron James – takes great pride in being the team leader.

“I love playing with my First Colonial teammates,” she said.

While James is getting help as she prepares for her SATs, she knows the hard work in the classroom is up to her. But she’s bound and determined to make it to the next level.

“She absolutely has been doing better and she’s got all the skills,” Bowman said. “She’s a solid Division I player and we’re hoping things happen for her so she can do that. If not, there are other options available to get her there.”

Especially when she puts her foot down.

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