Brindisi, Italy – After four years as one of the top performers on some of the University of Rhode Island’s most successful basketball teams, swingman Delroy James is now making a name for himself in Europe as well.
Today, the 27-year-old alumnus is playing professionally for the Enel Basket Brindisi in Italy’s Serie A league. Last season James averaged 7.8 rebounds per contest, fifth best in the league and 12.2 points in 29 minutes per game. James has earned his keep as power forward in the team’s starting lineup and also earned an all-star selection for the International All-Stars team, the first of his international career. Although his team lost by a final score of 76-59, James said the game was still a dream come true for him.
“It was an honor to be there and represent my team,” James said. “It shows you are on the right path and you must keep working. I don’t expect much. I wait for it without expectation.”
James’ humble outlook on life can be attributed to the days of his youth where he spent a large part of his childhood growing up in Guyana, a sovereign state located on the northern coast of South America. While most young children don’t have to worry about much at all, James’ parents and five of his siblings emigrated to the states while he waited at home in the region of Berbice. Â It wasn’t until he was 7-years-old that James and his two other siblings that stayed behind with him were able to move to the Brooklyn area with the rest of his family.
“My upbringing helped me a great deal,” James said. “It humbles you growing up and you just want to make better for yourself.”
While James was never a troublemaker, he found it tough to adjust to American life when he first moved to New York. Eventually, he found basketball. Though he did not end up playing until he was a sophomore in high school, his raw talent alone made up for all of the lost years. By the time his junior year came around, James transferred to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina from his prep school in Florida where he caught the eye of head coach of the Rhode Island Rams, Jim Baron, who led the team for 11 seasons from 2001-2012 before being named head coach of the Canisius College Golden Griffins in 2012.
“As a player, he is the ultimate competitor and he hates to lose and loves to win,” Baron said. “Him being from Brooklyn was very personal to me since I am from Brooklyn. He loved to compete and he had a sense of urgency because I know he wanted to help his family.”
James went on to become the fourth out of his parents’ eight children to play college basketball behind his brothers Shawn who played at Northeastern and Duquesne, Lex who played for St. Francis in New York and Bridgeport and Gordon who was a D-II All-American at Bridgeport. Averaging just nine minutes in 20 games as a freshman, James would finish his college career playing 34.1 minutes a contest making him one of the most used players on the team and a fan favorite for many.
During his time as a student-athlete studying sociology at URI, James was known for being skilled in both offense and defense. Coach Baron and his assistant coach, Pat Clarke, said that a player like Delroy was a perfect fit for their system since he played so well himself and complimented the skill sets of others too.
“He had a very infectious attitude,” former URI assistant coach and Coach Baron’s right hand man for 20-plus seasons, Clarke, said. “He always set a very high standard for the team and himself and from both a personal and professional perspective, he was a joy to be around.”
One of the biggest moments of James’ career came during the second round of the 2010 NIT tournament against the University of Nevada. In a nail biting 85-83 victory for the Rams, James held future first-round pick in the succeeding draft, Luke Babbitt, to 1-14 shooting. Babbitt, who ended up being the 16th overall selection for the Minnesota Timberwolves, was averaging 21.9 points per game and shot 50 percent from the field that year before facing URI. In addition, James also scored 34 points of his own.
“Babbitt was a projected top-10 pick and has played the last four years in the NBA,” former sports editor of URI’s student-run newspaper, The Good Five Cent Cigar, Mike Abelson said. “Babbitt wound up being drafted 16th; you can’t convince me that that one masterful game by Delroy didn’t cost Babbitt all those spots.”
Even with his performance against Babbitt and Nevada during his junior year, and a triple-double in his second-to-last game as a college athlete, James didn’t get selected in June’s NBA draft. The Tulsa 66ers, D-League affiliate of the Oklahoma City Thunder, came calling soon after, but it did not result in a spot on an NBA team for the 6-foot-8 forward.
James would also go on to play for the New Jersey G-Force of the Premier Basketball League before making the big move to pursue his career abroad. While moving to yet another new country was challenging, James said the most difficult thing he had to deal with this time was the lackluster drivers.
“Of course you have to adjust to the time, but the biggest shock honestly is how people in the states are saint drivers compared to those of Italians,” James said.
During the grind of the season, an average day for James usually involves an early morning with some homemade breakfast followed by practice or time in the pool to relax his body on days off. Finishing the regular season as the fifth seed, James’ squad EBB was swept in the quarterfinals by fourth-seeded Banco di Sardegna Sassari though it wasn’t without a fight. Two of the team’s losses came by seven points or fewer.
Had James decided not to pursue a professional career abroad, he said he would have used his sociology degree to be a guidance counselor or a mentor to kids which he is still interested in doing once his playing days are done. Now that he has a young son back home in the United States, he said he strives to be a model citizen and help people in any way he can. Citing the birth of his son and fatherhood as his greatest accomplishments, James also said that graduating was another thing he is honored to have done.
“Love is a strong word but when you become a father or mother, the love you have for your own is just unbearable and it becomes your reason for living responsibly,” James said. “My biggest achievement in basketball, I’ll have to say, is graduating. Without basketball I don’t think I would have even went to college so basketball opened that door for me.”
Once the offseason began, James headed back home where he was most looking forward to spending time with his son and other loved ones while practicing to continue improving his game. Still catching up on Rams games when he has the time, James said that he thinks freshmen E.C. Matthews and Hassan Martin are the future leaders of the team and that recent graduate Xavier Munford has a very good career ahead of him for years to come. Though Delroy James is no longer a Rhode Island Ram, it is evident that he will always bleed Keaney Blue and have a very close connection to the school that helped turn him to an adult.
“My time at URI was the greatest of my life,” James said. “Anyone that knows me knows Rhody means a lot to me. The people, the fans, the staff there, everyone was good to me and I owe who I am today to all of them.”