Friday, October 7, 2011

Dominic James to play for Aris in Greece

Dominic James has played in some hostile environments before, but nothing like what he encountered when he competed against Aris Basketball Club in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Now, the Richmond High School graduate will see the flip side of that coin. James said Thursday that he has given a verbal agreement to play for Aris.

"They go nuts, the crowd. It was great," said James, who turned 25 this week. "That team is one of the most reputable organizations in Europe and especially in Greece. It's an honor just to get an offer from that team."

It's the third overseas club for James since he graduated from Marquette University in 2009. He also played for teams in Turkey and Bulgaria.

Aris plays in the HEBA A1 League, also known as the Greek Basketball League, and competes in the Eurocup.

James will be leaving soon to join his new team.

"It's been an emotional rollercoaster for me," James said. "The hardest part is leaving. Once I get over there, everything settles down and it becomes easy. The hardest part is leaving my family behind and going over there by myself.

"It's great being over there, doing something I love to do, being paid for it and seeing the world at the same time."

James spent his 2009-10 season in Mersin, Turkey, before joining Lukoil Academic of Bulgaria's National Basketball League.

James is Richmond's second all-time leading scorer with 1,652 points. He scored 1,749 more playing at Marquette, where he graduated with a degree in public relations and was the Big East's Rookie of the Year for the 2005-06 season.

Playing overseas is all about making adjustments.

"Regardless of what kind of situation you're in, it's going to be new to you," James said. "There is an adjustment period you have to go through.

"It's just taking time to learn more and more about the game. There is a certain work ethic. This is my job and this is my livelihood. The hours I spend working out, the hours I spend studying the game, you've got to take it very seriously. It's just helped me grow all around, not only as a player, but as a person."

Lukoil won its league championship, and James was among his team's leaders in points, assists and steals before an injury derailed his season in late April.

He was driving baseline during a practice and jumped into the air. When he came down, it was right on the foot of a teammate.

"My teammate was 7-4, so he's got some big feet," James said. "I came down on his foot and ended up breaking (mine)."

James broke his right foot. He said it was the exact same injury as when he broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot late in the year during his senior season with Marquette.

"I broke my left one in college and my right one this time around," he said.

" ... It was a great season (in Bulgaria), very successful. I bounced back and I'm ready to go back again."

He's also ready to renew an area rivalry.

Aris plays Olympiacos on Oct. 12 in the Greek Cup quarterfinals. Olympiacos features Connersville graduate and Butler star Matt Howard.

James graduated from RHS in 2005, Howard from Connersville in 2007.

"It's going to be great. I'm very excited to play against him," James said. "He's a good guy, a high character guy. He's a competitor."

So is James, who continues to pursue his dream of one day playing in the NBA.

James had a spot on the Milwaukee Bucks Summer League roster in both 2009 and 2010.

The NBA is currently in the midst of a lockout. The league's preseason was canceled earlier this week.

"My goal remains the same," James said. "The goal is always to make it in the league. I'm still young. I'm still a young player. I'm still trying to grow.

"I'm just trying to go out there and become better each year and let everything else take care of itself. ... I'm just looking forward to the season. I have a lot of support around here, a lot of people praying for me. It's appreciated."

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