The road to LEAP Academy in Camden, N.J. wasn't the road Lance James wanted to take. Hurricane Katrina's impact reached James, who lived in Georgia at the time of the disaster.
James lost seven family members in the flooding the consumed New Orleans. James's parents immediately went to Louisiana to handle the affairs of the family. James moved to New Jersey to live with his godfather, whose own children attended LEAP.
Amidst the tragedy, James took advantage of a new team, a new home and a new opportunity for life past high school.
"I realized that I have to be all about business. I had to put it all aside and come up here with a sense of urgency," James said.
That urgency helped propel LEAP to the state championship game in New Jersey.
James averaged 27 points and seven assists for LEAP head coach Marco Marcos as well as maintaining a 3.4 grade point average and scoring an 1100 on the SAT.
"He's a good Southern kid," Marcos said. "He's got the grades, he's humble and he's a great player. Let me put it this way, if my son turns out like Lance, then I'm doing okay."
A big time athlete, James can play above the rim despite his small size. Explosive with the ball, he mixes it up with a dependable jumper and smart with the ball in his hands. Marcos said James battled against Jersey's best all season long.
"Miles Beatty, Corey Fisher, Eugene Harvey. You name it, he put up big numbers on them. 35, 41, 47, 37, 33. Lance put up big time numbers against anybody we played," Marcos said.
Since moving to New Jersey from Chapel Hill High School in metro Atlanta last year, James fell off the recruiting radar. But word is getting out on James. Marcos said Wake Forest, St. John's, Drexel, James Madison and George Mason have all shown interest of late.
"He is basically looking for the complete package in a school," Marcos said. "He wants to find a place where he can be successful socially, academically and basketball wise."
Marcos said James helped put LEAP on the map. Now the focus is putting James on the recruiting map for more high-major schools.