Catching Up with VA 2021 PG Hayden James
Hayden James is a talented scoring point guard in the VA 2021 class. James has the ability to score at all three levels and has pure shot with great fundamentally sound mechanics. He does a great job of using ball screens and finding ways to create offense for himself and his teammates. James has outstanding court visions and can pass to open guys using either hand. On the court, James is a leader and possesses the confidence to run the show. Defensively, James is tenacious and has very quick feet and active hands which allow him to pick up a lot of steals for easy transition baskets. The Heritage Christian School junior currently has several schools interested including Roanoke, Randolph-Macon, Hood, York, Messiah, Johns Hopkins, and many more. James is the type of player that coaches would love to have and will bring immediate value to the program based on his leadership, work ethic, skill, and high-level character.
We had a chance to catch up with Hayden James and hear more about his recruitment, what he is looking for in a school, and his development as a player.
Question: How has the recruiting process been and which schools are showing you the most interest?
Hayden James: “Right now, the recruiting has been a great learning experience for me. With everything going on right now and not being able to visit campuses, it’s difficult but I am encouraged that coaches have found new ways to meet and share their schools, including over Zoom, FaceTime, and phone/texts. Over the last two months, I’ve spoken with 10-12 schools, mostly D2/D3 right now including Randolph-Macon, US Coast Guard Academy, Hood, Messiah, York PA, Roanoke, Pratt, Geneva, St Lawrence, Converse, Christopher Newport, Johns Hopkins, Colby, Dean, Arcadia, Kalamazoo, and Bob Jones Univ among others.”
Question: What qualities are you looking for in your potential college coach and program?
James: “I love an aggressive style of play on both the offense and defensive side. I play on an AAU program, Higher Level AAU, that just goes hard on both sides of the ball. I’d like to see a program that promotes that style of play, but other than that I’m so focused on finding the right fit for me physically and emotionally. I want to be part of a family that supports you in every aspect of being a student-athlete. Long term, I see myself coaching basketball one day and being part of a program where I can grow mentally and learn the game so that one day I can apply everything I learned from those coaches into my own style of coaching.”
Question: How would you describe your game on the court?
James: “Explosive, aggressive, and dedicated. I focus on doing whatever is needed to win, this year it meant scoring rather than playing a traditional point guard role. While still running the point, I scored in double figures in every game this season and averaged over 22 ppg which was #1 in Prince William County’s regular season and ranked 10th overall in scoring in Virginia for both private and public schools. I pushed myself to also become a better outside shooter, especially beyond the three where I shot 43% for the season. On the defensive side, I averaged 5 steals per game and a lot of our points came from our aggressive/pressure defense. Most importantly, I tried to maximize every possession with minimal turnovers and creating points through defense while being a very vocal leader for my team. Finally, I believe I have a very high work ethic, extra shots before and after practice, extra workouts (especially now during quarantine), and working with my teammates on improving every day. Fortunately for us, it led to our school, Heritage Christian, winning the State Championship this year after falling short in the Championship game last year. I know individual awards mean nothing compared to team success, but winning both the 2019 and 2020 State Tourney MVP really shows how hard I’ve worked to get where I am.”
Question: In what areas of your game would you like to improve as you prepare for the next level?
James: “I have to continue to play at a high level and push myself even harder this summer and next year. Things are different now with life impacted by the quarantine, I cannot lose my edge or commitment to this game, I love it and have an opportunity to play college basketball somewhere. The college game is insanely fast, big, and strong but I believe I will land somewhere that fits who I am as a person and player, I just need to stay focused and committed to improving every area of my game. I’m not perfect and every part of my game can improve, both mentally and physically. I know I can play college basketball, I 100% believe that and I will not take any opportunity to play college basketball for granted. I will continue to listen to my coaches and trainers and break every part of my game down, watch film from last season, and set new goals for this upcoming season. If there’s one area that I know I must improve upon, it’s my physicality. I’ve worked to gain muscle and have already gained 5-7 pounds of muscle that I can tell has made me so much stronger in many areas. My goal is 20 pounds before the beginning of the HS season, that will allow me to be more dominant my senior season and prepare for college ball.”
Question: Who is your favorite player to study and why?
James: “Kyrie Irving, I’ve followed him since his time at Duke and his ability to create offense is incredible. He’s so patient in looking for opportunities to score or pass. That is very hard to do at any level but he does it at the highest level. But I also like the explosiveness and aggressiveness of Russell Westbrook and can see several aspects of my game that resembles his explosiveness.”
Question: How has playing in Big Shots events helped your player development and recruitment?
James: “Last year, we started early and attended a few Big Shots events at the beginning of the AAU season. The level of talent was very high and forced me and my AAU teammates to quickly step up and realize the AAU season had begun. This wasn’t a local tournament, this was a high-major talent packed tournament with sponsored teams with some of the best talent in the nation. So, looking back those early Big Shots tournaments quickly got me mentally and physically prepared for the rest of the AAU season., which resulted in me getting to talk to several coaches at the college level.”
James: “In closing, I’d like to say thanks to my coaches, Paul Pleas and Darius Wilson of Higher Level AAU and Kevin Cormican and Rick Scarfi at Heritage Christian School. They don’t get paid and must take time away from their families to do the work they do for us. They feel like family to me and I trust them and appreciate everything they have done for me over the years.”
We look forward to keeping up with Hayden and continuing to follow his progression as a very talented player in VA’s 2021 class.