Still, a 6-foot-10 highly sought after recruit out of Detroit Community High School, spent one tumultuous season at Providence where he was dismissed from the school after he and a former teammate were charged with assaulting a Providence student.
Coming to Henry Ford to play his sophomore season, HFCC coach Abe Mashour said Still focused exclusively on basketball and school.
“He learned so much from his time at Providence and really matured,” Mashour said. “He realizes that his basketball talent gives him opportunities, but those opportunities could go away at any time. He stays away from the social life — he’s at school either studying, in class or in the gym most of the day.”
“As a freshman, I wasn’t really ready for college basketball,” Still said. “This year really gave me a lot of experience and helped me a lot.”
Junior college basketball in Michigan is known for its guard play. Big men as talented as Still don’t come along very often, and as a result, he drew a lot of attention from opposing defenses.
“He saw a lot of double and triple teams,” Mashour said. “Teams would try to bully and push him away from the basket.”
Still said that attention helped him develop a more all-around game.
“It really helped me become more patient with the ball and look for opportunities to set up teammates,” Still said.
Despite the attention, he still had a standout season, averaging 15.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.2 blocks and 2.3 assists per game. Still also showed off an ability to score around the basket and also step out and hit jumpers from the perimeter. Playing for Henry Ford, he also got the opportunity to work with former University of Michigan standout and NBA big man Terry Mills. Mills, also a 6-foot-10 player, worked with Still on the finer points of interior play.
“He taught me a lot about playing in the post,” Still said. “He talked to me about taking my time, not rushing shots, and worked with me on being able to use both my right and left hand.”
“Mills taught James how to think through the game at a higher level,” Mashour said. “His (Mills’) career changed, where he went from being an inside scorer to more of a stretch four, so he was able to talk to James about both the inside and outside game and the importance of being flexible in order to succeed at different levels.”
Still, who is finishing up some classes at Henry Ford, plans to enroll and play for Eastern Michigan next season. EMU coach Rob Murphy, a former Syracuse assistant to Jim Boeheim, was a big selling point for Still.
“Coach Murphy is a really good guy,” Still said. “He coached under Boeheim, so he knows what he’s doing. The MAC is a great conference, but I think we can make some things happen.”
At Henry Ford, Still did a bit of everything on the court, but his presence as a rim-protector was vital. That, along with his ability to hit jumpers from the perimeter, could prove valuable at Eastern.
“I think I can be a face-up four for them, provide some rebounding, some scoring, some defense and space the floor for our guards with my shooting,” Still said.
Mashour believes that the fact that Still is a quick-learner who wants to get better will be his greatest asset for EMU.
“James always asks questions, he sees the game a lot like a coach does,” Mashour said. “For example, a 6-foot-10 kid in JUCO has no need to develop a reverse pivot because they can be effective without it, but our coaches worked with James on it and he was eager to learn it because it will be necessary at the next level. I think he’ll make an impact at Eastern because he’s so versatile.”
Mashour also cited Still’s personality as one of his strengths.
“He has a great demeanor,” Mashour said. “He was always able to make everyone laugh or keep people loose when things got too serious. He’s a wonderful kid. We’ll miss him and look forward to watching him at Eastern.”