James Enjoying Challenge Of Making Lynx Roster

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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A college graduation ceremony is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So, too, is a shot at a WNBA roster. That left Eastern Michigan University graduate Tavelyn James with a big decision on Sunday.

With James’ commencement ceremony scheduled for 2 p.m. in Ypsilanti, Mich., and Minnesota Lynx training camp opening up just two hours later, the undrafted camp invitee needed to decide if she’d accept her diploma in health administration or be at LifeTime Fitness Training Center for Day 1.

In the end, her mom's wishes of seeing her cross the stage won out and James stayed for her graduation ceremony. And in doing so James got a chance to hear EMU President Susan Martin talk about the impact she’s had on her school.

“They did a small speech on me at graduation that I didn’t know about,” she said. “So if I would have missed, I wouldn’t have heard it.”

Bringing that support from her school to Minneapolis, James joined camp on Monday and hasn’t looked back. She’s well aware that making Minnesota’s roster is a difficult task. Of the 18 invitees this year, 17 remain and that number will be trimmed to 15 by Monday. Only 11 will make the opening day roster.

Still, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to try out with the defending champions is fueling James each day.

She is Eastern Michigan’s all-time leading scorer, a collegiate shooting guard who averaged 23.8 points per game as a senior and racked up 2,470 points in her four-year career. She’s a career 39.5 percent shooter from the floor, and upon leaving EMU she held school scoring records ranging from 3-pointers made in a game and a single season.

James was named the Mid-American Conference Player of the Year as a senior, and her team won the MAC tournament title.

But joining the defending WNBA champs has been an eye-opening challenge—something she’s enjoyed each day.

“It’s amazing. The atmosphere is a lot different than college,” James said. “It’s a difference being in practice with a championship team. I just came from a came from a championship in college, but this is a different level of champions. But they are all encouraging and they’re getting you where you need to be. It’s a good feeling.”

Listed at 5-foot-7, James moved from her traditional shooting guard position over to point guard during camp, adding a little extra learning curve in her college to pro transition. She said the biggest change is the strength and physicality the Lynx bring each day, but she’s used her speed to her advantage.

With additional cuts coming up between Monday and the beginning of the season, James said she knows there is a possibility she won’t make the roster. That’s OK, she said, because being here not only is driving her to push herself athletically but is also providing a chance to learn from some of the best in the game.

“I can take away their leadership and their being poised and being efficient with what they do,” James said. “Not making the team wouldn’t hurt me. It would just make me feel that I had the experience to be here and be with a championship team.”

James said she’s the second EMU player to participate in a WNBA training camp, following Ryan Coleman, who did so with the Detroit Shock in 2006. If she made the Lynx roster and saw regular season action, she’d be the first Eagles player to do so.

That would simply be another way James has made her university proud.

“They’re counting on me,” James said. “Whatever position God puts me in, I’m fine with it.”

Day 7 Camp Notes

  • Forward Rebekkah Brunson returned to camp on Saturday. The 2011 WNBA All-Star spent the offseason playing in Russia with Nadejhda, finishing third place in the Russian League. Brunson is entering her ninth year in the WNBA and will begin her third year with the Lynx. She led the team with 8.9 rebounds per game and had a career-high 51.1 percent field goal percentage a year ago. She averaged 11.9 points per game during the Lynx postseason run.

  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Lynx on Twitter.