James Wang: From Distance

James Wang's development as a player came from countless hours perfecting his three-point shot
James Wang's development as a player came from countless hours perfecting his three-point shot

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – Williams College junior men's basketball captain James Wang '12 came a great distance to play for the Ephs. Born in Taiwan, Wang moved to Sydney, Australia at the age of two. By 2005 his family had moved back to Taiwan.

In Sydney Wang began playing competitive youth basketball at age eight, played competitive rugby until age 15, and played golf recreationally. For three years he played for Australia's highly regarded Next Level Basketball Program to develop his game and prepare him for his quest to play collegiately in the U.S. 

Through his involvement with Next Level he was able to secure a spot at Montverde [FL] Academy and played on their national championship high school team with Solomon Alabi who now plays for the Toronto Raptors. Nine of the 13 players on the Montverde roster were offered Division I scholarships, including Wang.

Wang using his quickness to go
down the lane

Wang decided not to accept the scholarship offer from Nicholls State University and in an attempt to get recognized by the Ivy League he decided to do a post-graduate year at a northeast prep school. It was his Australian roots and the Next Level Program that helped Wang find a prep school in the northeast. "There were a lot of Sudanese players in the Next Level Program and they were connected with Manute Bol's "Ring True Foundation." Ring True suggested I attend Canterbury School (New Milford, CT), through a contact they had," stated Wang.

When Ivy League schools did not show enough interest in Wang at Canterbury he expanded his list to include schools like Williams. Former Eph assistant Dale Wellman, now the head coach at Alfred University, entered the picture. Wellman encouraged Wang to visit Williams and meet the players and head coach Dave Paulsen.

That visit is what sold Wang on Williams.  "When I saw how close the team was, how much like a family the guys were, I knew I would fit in," said Wang. "Of course, I knew the value of a Williams degree so I knew it would be a good place for me. It also helped that Dave Paulsen was very persistent in encouraging me to come. I figured if he wanted me that much I would get a chance to play."

Wang was recruited to come to Williams to play for Dave Paulsen, but by the time the next academic year rolled around the Ephs had a new coach in Mike Maker. "When James arrived we had three senior guards in front of him, but you could see he was a special player," Maker. "As talented and dynamic as he was, he was rough around the edges. In practice he was always trying to make the spectacular play and we had to talk to him about being a little bit vanilla ice cream and cheese pizza, without taking his flair and flamboyance away from him."

"We've worked hard as a staff at achieving the right balance allowing James some freedom to make his plays, making the simple play, and that is also a credit to him," Maker commented.

Wang averaged 11.6 minutes a game in his debut season, but he had nine games where he played three minutes or less and five where he did not play. His first basket came versus Southern Vermont in his first two minutes of play.

One of Wang's first meaningful minutes his first year came when he was thrust into the intense Williams – Amherst rivalry in January to try and slow down Amherst star Connor Meehan with the Ephs down two points.

Wang, never one to shy away from a challenge, got right up on Meehan and used his strength and quickness to make things more difficult for Meehan, denying him progress to the hoop. Wang did not play the rest of the game. The box score shows he played one minute.

He made his first three in the 8th game of the year when he played 7 minutes in a 92-55 win over SUNY New Paltz.  His first time in double figures came 8 games later when he tallied 22 versus Tufts on 8 for 11 from the floor, 2 of 3 on three-pointers and 4-4 from the foul line. He also dished out four assists against one turnover.

When the Ephs visited Amherst in February for the re-match Wang played much more than one minute he played in January and he was a major factor in an 89-78 upset of the Lord Jeffs. Wang hit on 6 of 9 from the floor and 7 of 8 free throws for 19 points, along with contributing 4 assists and 2 steals in 28 minutes of high-energy action.

Wang is not afraid to challenge the bigs

The last nine games of his first year, Wang had solidified his role as the top backcourt sub for Mike Maker's (17-9) Ephs, logging the majority of his minutes in that span.

Wang's first Eph start did not come until the season-opener his sophomore year. Quickly his play began to be appreciated well beyond NESCAC. He started all 32 games as the Ephs posted a 30-2 record, won a school record 21 games in a row, won the Little Three title outright for the second straight year, won the NESCAC title, and finished second in the nation.

Wang led the 2009-10 Ephs in minutes played (1,009) and assists (142). He also made 56% of his field goal attempts (190-342), 51% of his threes (69-136) and drained 86% of his free throws (105-122) on his way to 554 points (17.3), second best on the team. At season's end Wang was named First Team All-NESCAC, D3Hoops.com First Team All-Northeast Region, and a D3Hoops.com Fourth Team All-American.

By now Wang is pretty much a four-letter word on most NESCAC campuses with his ability to run the floor, press the attack, score off the dribble, hit the open man, or drain the three.

James Wang can beat you off the dribble, score in traffic, find success against bigs in the lane and stretch the defense with his stroke from beyond the arc. His improvement from beyond the arc was dramatic from his first season, partly due to playing more regularly, but due mostly to his dedication to improvement in the off-season.

An adequate shooter his first season Wang spent countless hours by himself in Chandler and Lasell shooting jump shot after jump shot between his first season and his second. Maker quickly credits James for the development of James Wang the player ahead of himself and his staff.  "James is a self-made player. We're at our best when James is making plays and allowed the freedom to display his talents and passion," Maker stated.

"I did my usual weight work and shot a lot of jumpers between my first year and my second," Wang confirmed. "The shooting work was not mechanical, it was all about feeling confident about my shot."

Developing his jumper from mid distance and beyond the arc has made Wang a "nightmare to defend" in Maker's eyes. By being able to hit the three consistently Wang opened the floor up for more of his talents to emerge. "Teams have to make a decision with James," Maker noted. "Go under the ball screen and watch him bury the three or come over the top and try and contain him. His toughness, quickness and passion then come into play and good things happen."

Mike Maker congratulates James
on becoming 29th Eph
male to
reach 1,000 points

Playing in his 71st game for the Ephs versus Wesleyan, Wang's final point of his 21 on the day came on a free throw gave him exactly 1,000 for his career. He is the 29th Eph male player to reach 1,000 points.

Through the first 20 games of the 2010-11 season Wang is hitting on 52% of his field goal attempts (118-228), 49% of his threes (50-103) and connecting on 84% of his free throws (64-76) for the 19-1 Ephs who are 5-0 in NESCAC. He is averaging 17.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.

As delighted as Maker is in the development of James Wang as a player, he is even more impressed with James Wang the person. "I truly value my time off the court with James," Maker said. "He is very humble and giving, always one of the first to volunteer for a community service project, which is rare for a star player. I know he is a favorite player here on the team and in the community and I truly think it comes from his personality and humility – he can light up a room with a smile and he is genuinely caring and friendly." Wang has been involved in the ABC Clothing Sale, the Hillcrest Toy Drive and this summer he is slated to have an internship with the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce's "Sundays at Six" downtown program.

Wang's feelings for Maker as a coach are on equal footing with the coach's appreciation for the player. "Coach Maker instills a lot of confidence in his players and he appreciates that there is a certain individual aspect to the game," noted Wang. "He creates his team around the talents of the players. He is very good at assessing talent and his system is getting the best out of each player and not a commitment to a certain style of play. He is by far the best coach I've ever played for."

Wang sees his role on this year's Eph team in a far different light than he was in last year. "The strength of this year's team is talent," stated Wang. "We have a much deeper and more athletic team this year. We have more players who can create their own shots, which takes a lot of the pressure off of me. It's nice to know that I do not have to score a lot for us to win."

A psychology and Chinese major, Wang's current goals are to win an NCAA Championship this season and next, try to play for Taiwan after graduation before returning to the U.S. to live and work, possibly in the sports field.

Wang would be ecstatic to end up as the second most famous Wang from Taiwan to have graduated from Williams. International recording and film star Leehom Wang '98, born in the U.S., currently residing in Taiwan, is so popular in Asia that he cannot go outside of his house without altering his appearance.  While that level of recognition might seem like a long shot to many, it was his development from distance that made James Wang the player and person he is today.

James Wang:  From Distance
February 3, 2011 James Wang: From Distance