COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Watching 6-foot-10-inch former airman and current Florida State center Bernard James hold his own against Division 1 Atlantic Coast Conference competition, it’s hard not to imagine how thoroughly he dominated rec center pick-up games on base.
The 26-year-old James struggled against Maryland’s All-ACC center Jordan Williams in 78-62 loss Wednesday night, but the former airman is no slouch, earning a starting spot midway through this season. He is averaging 8.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, including a 15-point, 10-rebound game against Baylor and the Bears’ freshman center Perry Jones who many believe will be this year’s No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
Failing out of high school, James took the long road to Tallahassee, Fla. He earned his GED in 2002 and enlisted in the Air Force at age 17 with his parents consent. James served the next six years as an Air Force cop deploying to Iraq and Qatar.
Eventually, James got noticed shooting hoops at the gym and made the U.S. Armed Forces All-Star team. He led the U.S. team to the International Military Sports Council championship in 2008.
When he got out, he played for Tallahassee Community College and earned his Associates Degree before transferring to Florida State this year. Florida State’s coach first saw him play at a Las Vegas tournament in 2005.