James Florence is used to stepping into some big shoes. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound from Wheeler High School in Marietta, Ga., shined in the state playoffs en route to a state championship. Now with the Georgia Stars, the class of 2006 prospect will try to live up to the big expectations set by guys like Louis Williams, Mike Mercer and Billy Humphrey this AAU season. He's ready.
Florence will take over the reigns from class of 2005 prospect Sharaud Curry next year. He plays with former Wheeler and University of Georgia star D.A. Layne. Now, he'll step into the role left by guys like Williams, Mercer and Humphrey with the Georgia Stars.
"I hear it every game. People always say, 'Louis and Mike aren't on the court anymore. Whatcha gonna do now?' I'm used to that," Florence said. "Now I have to just go out there and prove that I'm just as good as them."
He proved that he can play with the big dogs. Florence and his Wheeler teammates shocked Williams and Mercer in front of a packed house at Georgia Tech in the state playoffs and eventually won the 5A state championship. Florence was a key figure in Wheeler's run.
At last weekend's Riversfest AAU tournament, Florence helped the Stars claim their third title in the early AAU schedule.
He's a heady scoring point guard. With a good body to get into the lane, a dandy little floater and a confident and usually effective jumper, he's got an array of offensive moves. But he also has a nice handle and loves to push the offense. With guys like Landon Milbourne inside and Cameron Tatum outside, Florence can be that pass first point guard that teams need on the AAU circuit. He's already the top guard with the Stars.
"I'm ready to get some national recognition by colleges," Florence said. "I'm just trying to earn a scholarship."
Mixed with high-level skills, a 990 SAT score and a national schedule with the Stars and Wheeler next season, Florence should have little problem getting in front of some of the best schools in the country.
When college coaches could call recruits, one of the first calls Florence received was from Wake Forest. Bucknell, Cornell and Wofford have all been sending him mail correspondence. His list will certainly grow soon after the busy April evaluation period.
"I just have to play like I've been playing," he said.
And if he does, he should play himself into some big-time offers.