Photo via Tennessee Athletics
It hasn’t been the senior season Josiah-Jordan James envisioned. The senior leader of the eighth-ranked Tennessee basketball team played in just five of the Vols’ first 12 games while trying to manage knee pain that’s plagued him since the offseason.
Returning to the court for the first in nearly a month, James soaked in a special moment in the midst of a frustrating season.
After intercepting a pass to spark a transition opportunity, James finished an alley oop from Zakai Zeigler which sent the 16,697 crowd at Thompson-Boling Arena into an oblivion. Mississippi State coach Chris Jans wanted to talk about it and the entire Vols’ bench met James on the floor to celebrate.
“After I dunked the ball, it was just a lot of emotion,” James said. “I don’t really know exactly what I did. I’ll have to go look on video. I don’t remember. I just remember a lot of screaming, yelling and my teammates came.”
Tennessee and James hope it won’t be the last special moment of his senior season and there’s more reason to believe that true than there has been in some time.
The Vols hadn’t been able to get a complete grasp of why James’ knee was bothering him to the degree it was or what to do to ease the pain. James remarked that it was “really frustrating” the days when the former five-star would put in the time at treatment but wouldn’t feel any better.
However, James believes he’s beginning to turn the corner thanks to a different approach and a new medicine.
“I’m on some new medicine,” James said. “I’ve been on it for about three-or-four days now. It’s definitely just helped with the pain. I haven’t felt any pain since three-or-four days ago when I got on the new medicine so hopefully we just keep moving forward and keep treatment up right now.”
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The new medicine isn’t the only thing trainer Chad Newman and strength coach Garrett Medenwald are doing different in hopes of getting James back on the court. The duo are using a “completely different approach” than before that emphasizes strengthening muscles around the knee.
“So, my glutes aren’t as strong as I need them to be, so we started working on glute activation when jumping and landing,” James said. “Working on things not only with my knee, but things around my knee to take pressure and relieve pain from the general area that it was hurting, so I strengthen my glutes and my hamstring. I do exercises when I wake up and before I go to sleep. I have a whole routine that I have to do that I feel has definitely paid off.”
What was the Vols’ senior leaders reaction when the newest plan of attack was truly effective and set the stage for his return to the court?
“Definitely a lot of relief and a lot of excitement,” James said. “To be able to go out and practice and workouts, and to be able to move around and not feel any pain, was just so much relief. I give a lot of credit to Chad and G for sticking with me because I know it’s not only been a tough process for me, but for them as well because they stay up late at night trying to figure out ways and different things for me to do, so I give up a lot of credit to them as well.”
James was effective in his return to the court. After missing his first two shots, James made his final three on his way to a nine point, four assist performance. The versatile wing made both of his three-point attempts in the blowout win.
Tennessee hopes James will be with them when they return to the court Saturday at Colonial Life Arena where they face South Carolina at 3:30 p.m. ET. The SEC Network is broadcasting the game.