Bernard James has been a major factor in the surprising rise of Florida State's hoops program over the past two seasons. As one of the nation's most intimidating defensive players, the 27 year-old helped guide the Seminoles to a 25-10 record that was enough to at least put him on the NBA radar.
The big story surrounding James is that he's only played two years at the Division I level due to his six-year tour of Iraq while serving in the U.S. Air Force (which was followed by two years of JUCO ball). His raw offensive game is due in large part to this, since he didn't even start playing organized, competitive basketball until mere years ago. He has no shot to speak of and a barely-there jump hook that couldn't be considered a reliable move for him at the NBA level, but what he lacks in polish he somewhat makes up for by moving well without the ball, crashing the offensive boards, and finishing well through contact. The problem with his inability to shoot extends to the free throw line, where he shot 53%. The fact that he scored in double digits 20 times this past season really speaks to his toughness and nose for the ball.
Defense is Bernard James' calling card, and his ability to block shots at that end represents his only real shot at getting drafted. He has the ability to swat shots into the 5th row, and indeed, many of his blocks set up immediate fast break opportunities. But even on D, he's a bit unrefined, as he lacks ideal defensive awareness that most players his age would've had long ago. He's pretty good at avoiding fouls despite the fact that he challenges such a high percentage of shots, and this might indicate that he'll have a quick learning curve defensively as his basketball IQ increases. James has a great motor and decent end-to-end speed for his size, but might struggle with his quickness at the next level, particularly against stretch 4's.
If a team values intangibles and defense enough, it's not crazy to think that Bernard James could squeak into the back end of the draft this June. His service background would give him the type of leadership and locker room qualities that no other rookie in this class could offer, and he's shown just enough gritty scoring ability to perhaps convince a team that they won't be playing 4-on-5 with him in the lineup. Odds are he won't be drafted, but could catch on with a team in training camp.
Rank 76th Overall (22nd PF)
Raw offensive game