James has been special for Oconto

Oconto's Laken James has had quite a career for the Blue Devils. (Doug Ritchay/WLUK)
Oconto's Laken James has had quite a career for the Blue Devils. (Doug Ritchay/WLUK)

OCONTO — Watch Laken James for just one quarter and you will realize there’s something different about this girl.

The Oconto senior point guard can do it all — score, defend and rebound. She has been something to watch over the last four seasons.

“The kid’s just special,” Oconto coach Russ Young said.

James is authoring a career like no other at Oconto. The senior guard is the program’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,500 points and she also will finish her career with more than 500 rebounds and 500 assists.

Those numbers are rare in girls high school basketball and impressive, which is why Green Bay coach Kevin Borseth offered her a scholarship.

“It’s a dream,” said James, who’s averaging 19.6 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game and 5.0 rebounds per game. “I think I say that every time. It really is for me. It’s a dream come true.

“The support my community will bring it will be awesome and I’ll be close to home for a great program. They’re No. 1 right now in the Horizon League and I’m really excited for the opportunity.”

Young has watched James since her grade school days.

“You could see the talent at the freshman level to the physical change as senior; the strength, the quickness, the overall improvement of her game,” Young said. “Her 3-point shooting, everything has improved dramatically as a result of just her maturation process.”

Young said Borseth had a question about James’ overall athletic ability, but then kept watching her play.

“Coach Borseth, when he was recruiting, his concern was, is she quick enough, is she this, is she that?” Young said. “I always came back to the same thing, she may not be this or that, but she is a basketball player.

“When I talked with Coach Borseth a couple years ago, he had her at a camp and he said, ‘She doesn’t run the fastest, she doesn’t jump the highest, but she’s got every loose ball, she’s got every steal, she’s got every pass.' You just realize the kid’s just special.”

James also is a quality volleyball player and actually helped her team reach the state tournament in 2012. However, basketball is her first love in regards to sports and said it’s easy to put in the hard work.

“I love the game, I love everything about it,” she said. “If there’s an opportunity to get better, I’ll look for that."

She looks for it at all times of the week. Young said he’ll gets texts on weekends for James asking to open the gym so she can practice. Young does and James goes after it.

“She may be the best basketball player there is around here,” Young said. “Certainly, I haven’t seen anyone as good a basketball player.”

James’ goal obviously is to lead Oconto to the state tournament at the Resch Center. She smiles when she talks about the possibility.

“Everything that we’ve done this year, it would really mean a lot to end it where we want it to be,” she said.

Oconto is 16-2 overall entering Thursday’s game and 10-1 in the Packerland Conference. Nobody knows how this season will end for James and Oconto, but Young knows he’s been lucky to watch her play every night from the sideline.

“I’ve had the best seat in the house to watch a kid like this,” Young said. “It’s really been fun to watch. I’ve watched her since third grade. You could always see the talent, but I think what most people miss is the hard work.

“She’s just been an inspiration in that regard for the program.”

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay

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