Posted: 5:35 pm Friday, February 15th, 2013
By Matt Porter
She’s a Team USA player, gold medal winner and Florida State signee.
As she vies for a state championship with Dwyer High, senior Kai James added another honor to her hoops resume: McDonald’s All-American.
James is one of 24 girls chosen for the 35th edition of the McDonald’s All-American Game. She is the second Palm Beach County girls player selected. The first, former Benjamin star Erlana Larkins (2004), now plays for reigning WBNA champion Indiana Fever.
Dwyer coach Jeryl Akins shouted happily when he was informed of James’ place in county hoops history. “She’s one of the historic people,” he said.
Three boys from Palm Beach County have been chosen for the game, but none in recent memory. The latest was Richard Rellford, who played in the 1982 game while a senior at Suncoast High.
North Shore’s Derek Harper, who later played 16 years in the NBA, played in the 1980 game. The first local McDonald’s All-American was Darryl Mitchell, also from North Shore, who played in the inaugural game in 1978.
This year’s game, played in an East-West format, is 7 p.m. April 3 at the United Center in Chicago. It will be televised live on ESPNU.
A 6-foot-5 post, James is averaging 10.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game for Dwyer, which Saturday will play in the Class 8A regional finals.
James, who has signed with Florida State, is the sister of North Carolina freshman forward Joel James. In August, she was a backup center on U.S. team that won gold at the FIBA Under-17 World Championships in Amsterdam.
She is the third-ranked post player and 22nd-ranked player overall in the 2013 recruiting class, according to ESPN HoopGurlz. She was a Florida Association of Basketball Coaches Class 8A All-State pick as a junior.
James is one of three McDonald’s All-Americans from Florida (Miami-Dr. Krop’s Ieshia Small and Port Orange-Atlantic’s Ronni Williams are the others). In the game, she’ll face off against a West team that includes her 6-5 Team USA teammate, Mercedes Russell, a 6-6 post. Fairly impressive James has reached this level after playing organized basketball for just four years.
“You look at a big girl like that and think she’s been playing forever, but she hasn’t,” Akins said. “She’s still a baby.”
Twenty-four boys and 24 girls were selected from a national pool of 814. The alumni list is a who’s who of NBA legends, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Alonzo Mourning and Kevin Durant.
The girls’ game, first held in 2002, has featured WNBA stars like Candace Parker, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus.