Tennessee guard/forward Josiah-Jordan James. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.
Josiah-Jordan James is one of the veteran leaders on Tennessee’s basketball team. And considering the fact that he is in his fourth season with the program, James has earned that right. Whether it is with his aggressive and intelligent play on the court or his infectious personality off of it, James is the guy for Tennessee Basketball.
James hasn’t been on the court with the team much this season, though. The South Carolina native has only played in seven of Tennessee’s 15 games this year, essentially missing the entire month of December as he continued to deal with knee pain following an offseason knee scope.
After missing four games in the month of December, though, James returned to the court for SEC play against Mississippi State last week. James then followed that up by playing in the Vols’ game against South Carolina this past Saturday. The senior guard/forward tallied 17 minutes in both games while combining for 20 points in total.
According to assistant coach Rod Clark, James has a critical role with this Tennessee team.
“Josiah being back is like, I don’t like to compare him to this, but it’s almost like Kobe [Bryant] back in the Staples Center after a long injury,” Clark said about James on Monday. “His energy, his enthusiasm, his infectious personality, it just lifts everybody.”
Vol Hoops: Tennessee Basketball Moves Into Top Five In Jan. 9 AP Poll
While speaking with the media on Monday afternoon, Clark told a story about James’ leadership dating back to last season.
At the time, a then-freshman Jahmai Mashack constructively confronted James after a sluggish performance against LSU on the road.
“[Josiah’s] head was down, he was just in a bad state,” Clark said. “He was shooting, I think, like 19 percent from the field at the time. And Jahmai was like ‘Jo, when your head is down, and when you’re not talking in timeouts, it affects us. Like we don’t feel like we can beat anybody when you’re like that. But when you have great energy and you’re coaching guys up and you’re being a leader, we feel like we’re the best team in the country.’ Ever since then, I think Jo has embraced how infectious his status is for our guys.”
That LSU loss in Baton Rouge took place on Jan. 8, 2022. Clark told the story to the local media in Knoxville on Jan. 9, 2023. The timing there is incredibly fascinating. Tennessee would eventually return the favor with a 14-point win over LSU just 14 days later.
“[James] being our leader is important,” Clark said. “So with him being back, I don’t want anybody to make a mistake not thinking that him being back doesn’t have anything to do with our offensive success. Because it does. He’s just another fix-it guy for us and he fixes everything — offensive end or defensive end. He’s great at it.”
Fifth-ranked Tennessee and Josiah-Jordan James will host Vanderbilt on Tuesday night at 9:00 p.m. from Thompson-Boling Arena.