SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Freshman guard James Douglas and his Lumberjack teammates take on the Sacramento State Hornets Saturday to start the second half of Big Sky Conference play. After 19 games into his initial collegiate season, Douglas has proved to be a bright spot for the Lumberjacks.
"I have very high regard for James Douglas," said Interim Head Coach Dave Brown. "He is certainly learning a lot of basketball and getting a lot of minutes. He is producing at times. He has drawn a lot more attention in the last few games. They are really trying to D him up."
Douglas leads the team with an average of 12.7 points per game. He has scored in double figures in 13 games and notched 20 or more in three games this season, including a career-best 22 points against CSU Bakersfield and 21 points in the first meeting with Sacramento State.
The Chino Hills, Calif., native came into NAU with an impressive prep resume. He was rated as the 15th-best point guard in California and listed at No. 92 at his position in the country overall in ESPN Recruiting Rankings. He was a four-time All-Trinity League selection (2008-11) and a three-time All-CIF choice (2009-11), earning the distinction as the CIF Division IV Player of the Year after scoring 17.3 points per game.
Douglas, who has hit a team-best 35 three-pointers while shooting 42.7 percent from beyond the arc, the fifth-best mark in the Big Sky, made an impact from the start of the season. He scored 21 points in his collegiate debut and broke into the starting lineup in his third game. Overall, he has made 14 starts on the season and leads all freshmen in the conference in scoring, three-point percentage and three-pointers made and steals.
"I expected to let the coaches to let the best players play," said Douglas. "I just want to work to be the best I can be and the best of my potential. Luckily, it got me into the starting lineup. It is a great privilege and I think I have earned it. But it does not stop here, I have to keep working. I want to be the best in the Big Sky."
Douglas' success has not come without a few bumps along the way. His Big Sky debut against Sacramento State attracted the attention of the league coaches. He scored a combined 38 points in his first two conference games but was held scoreless against Portland State. He rebounded by scoring 10 or more each of his next four games played.
"He continues to work through the game and he always finds a way to contribute and help his team," said Brown. "He is very important to us in the press breaker more than anyone else because he is very quick with the ball. He has to continue to learn to play Division I basketball. We hope to free him up more and he really has to do much better job with his defensive effort. He has a tendency to let a missed shot or two to affect his intensity on defense. As we grow, they will learn they have to play both ends of the floor."
Douglas has shown athleticism with a shot that ranges from beyond the three-point line to the ability to dunk on the break, providing one of the season highlights with a fast break dunk earlier this season. It is no surprise he has a tremendous leaping ability based on his affinity for his childhood hero Spider Man.
"Me and Spider Man are very similar actually," joked Douglas. "He is really bouncy and I am bouncy. He is fast and I am fast. I think we are more alike than not."
In addition to his desire to play video games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, Douglas owns an impressive Spider Man comic collection that includes a Limited Edition Amazing Spider Man issue that sells for $500 on the open market.
"He has been my hero since day one," said Douglas. "I have read all the comics and collected them. I still have a few more to get but I've got a lot."
Douglas and his on his teammates hope to add to their win collection Saturday.
"Starting these games over (in the second half), hopefully we can get more wins," said Douglas.
They will face a Sacramento State team that is 5-13 on the season and has not won a game in conference play after losing to Weber State on Thursday. Four of their five wins have come at home. John Dickson leads the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game. NAU won the first meeting 73-64 in Flagstaff.
Tipoff is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. Flagstaff time. The game can be heard on the Lumberjack Radio Network on 105.1 FM The Big Talker in Flagstaff, Prescott and Sedona and online via The Big Talker website and their free Big Talker mobile app for Androids, Blackberries, iPhones and iPads. It will also be available online via Big Sky TV.