MU’s James determined to keep chin up
Speaking publicly Monday for the first time since suffering the injury last week in MU’s 93-82 loss to Connecticut, James had one overriding message: What’s done is done and the Golden Eagles need to carry on with him now on the bench alongside coach Buzz Williams, instead of in his customary spot in the starting lineup.
“I told the guys and the guys told me, and they understand that this ship must keep moving,” he said. “I’m not going to be an anchor to my teammates; I want to be a propeller. I want to push them away. They’re doing an excellent job of that.
”They know I don’t like sympathy. Coach is not a sympathetic guy. I’m just living my dreams through them.“
On crutches and with his left foot in a cast, James addressed reporters at the Al McGuire Center. With Williams looking on, James was upbeat in talking about his recovery, humble when looking back at his growth over his four years at MU and emotional at times in discussing his teammates.
James had a pin placed in his fractured fifth metatarsal on Friday at Aurora Sinai Medical Center. He was unable to travel to Louisville with his teammates for the 13th-ranked Golden Eagles’ game Sunday against the sixth-ranked Cardinals at Freedom Hall.
Just four days after setting a school record by playing in his 128th game, he instead watched the game on TV with his father as he began what’s expected to be a roughly three-month road to full recovery.
”Obviously it was a different perspective for me,“ he said. ‘’Having to watch them on TV was kind of hard. But just knowing they were out there playing for me, and the way they performed, really meant a lot and got my spirits up.“
James, who said he had yet to watch the play on which he was hurt in the opening minutes Wednesday against the Huskies, wasn’t quite sure what to make of the injury.
Replays showed his left foot give way as he moved from right to left on the baseline. James immediately passed the ball away and limped up court after the Golden Eagles missed a shot, signaling to the sideline that he needed to be removed from the game.
”All I can remember is I planted on it wrong,“ he said. ”It kind of felt like my shoe had busted open. I felt a little pop and then I came back downcourt and I signaled to Coach, ’I need to come out of the game.’
“But like always, if you look at Coach and tell him you need to come out of the game, he’ll look the other way. So I finally got his attention, went over to the sideline and I knew that something was wrong, especially when I tried to maneuver it a little more.”
An X-ray in the Milwaukee Bucks’ Bradley Center locker room revealed the fracture, and it was apparent his playing days at MU had ended.
Trainer Ernest Eugene said Monday that there was no evidence the 5-foot-11 James had been playing with a pre-existing injury or stress fracture. Still, he said the injury was rare in a player of James’ size, especially considering it occurred with no contact.
James overcame his devastation over the diagnosis and insisted on being on the bench for the second half.
“I said, ’ ’Nic, everything I say, you say it. And you sit in my seat,’ ” Williams said. “He was very vocal during timeouts. I thought that was the best thing for him at that time.”
It’s a role James hopes to fill for as long as the Golden Eagles continue playing. He’ll need to be cleared by doctors today in order to accompany the team to Pittsburgh for its next game on Wednesday against the Panthers, because of possible blood-clot issues from flying at high altitudes.
“It’s something I’m going to have to get used to,” James said. “I’m going to enjoy it from a coaching perspective. I’ve always felt like I’ve been a coach, especially being an extension of Coach out there on the court. But now I’m just on the sideline.”
James was asked whether he had asked himself, “Why me?”
“My faith is too strong for that,” he said. “I have way too much faith to ask God why this is happening to me. It’s come full circle. Me and Coach have sat down a lot of times, and he just told me, ’God hasn’t revealed what he has planned for you.’
”For a lot of people, I think it’d be hard. But for me, and where my faith is at right now, I couldn’t be any more confident.“
He also had to hold back tears a couple times when discussing his teammates, Williams and the support they’ve shown him.
”I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys,“ he said. ”It’s hard just discussing it. That’s my family. The support has been unbelievable. And it’s not just from my teammates; it’s from the whole Marquette family.
“That’s the reason why I came here . . . and that’s the best thing about this university. It has nothing to do with how long the ball’s bouncing; it’s got to do with how long your heart’s beating. And as long as my heart’s beating, I know I’m going to be taken care of when it comes to Marquette.”
Williams, who replaced James at the microphone after about 20 minutes, was understandably emotional.
“I don’t know how much more maturity, how much more wisdom you could get from a 22-year-old young man,” he said. “Dominic James has a spot with me until he decides he wants to play, or until he decides he doesn’t want to play.”
James finishes at or near the top of a number of Marquette statistical categories, including No. 1 in games played, No. 2 in assists with 631 and No. 3 in scoring with 1,749 points.
McNeal needs to play five more games to pass James.