When looking at the roster of the Eastern Michigan women’s basketball team, the name that has attracted the most attention is that of junior guard Tavelyn James.
In her first two seasons with the Eagles, James quickly filled the role of record-setter and leader in scoring.
In the 2008-09 season, she became the fourth-best freshman scorer in the nation with 426 total points and averaged 14.7 points.As a sophomore, James continued to set records. She broke the school record for points scored in a contest with 40 against Toledo and Buffalo. James, 20, was also ranked 11th nationally in points per game with a 20.7 average.
James, who is 5-feet-7, plays many roles on this team: scorer, leader and go-to-player. Coach AnnMarie Gilbert said she brings skill, great work ethic and the mentality of a scorer to the team.
“She takes the weight of this team on her shoulders,” Gilbert said.
Associate head coach LeTonya Tate says the “Garfield smile” that comes so naturally to James is what stands out about her, even in games.
“She’s genuinely sweet.” Gilbert said. “No matter if she gets fouled, ends up with 40 (points), or ends up with nine, she has a smile on her face.”
For teammate Kristin Thomas, having a high scoring player like James on the team brings about a sense of confidence going into every game.
“We can go into a game knowing what she can do,” said Thomas, a senior forward, “and when she scores like that, everyone starts to score.”
James’ teammates look to her, not only for points, but for assistance and a positive vibe.
“She’ll keep it real with you, if you’re not doing something right, she’ll let you know,” Thomas said, “She has a good, positive energy on the court.”
After playing at Detroit Mumford, James chose Eastern because it was all about family.
“My niece was born, and I didn’t want to leave her,” James said.
After being at EMU for two seasons, James’ favorite thing about the team has come to be just that … the team.
“We’re like a family,” James said. “The coaches are like our mother, aunt and grandma.”
Since being at Eastern, James has improved in many areas, on and off the court.
“I’ve become a better leader, and I’ve learned how to take responsibility for my team,” James said.
She also said her defensive game has improved, and she’s gotten a lot stronger and faster.
“She came in as a good player, and during the off seasons she really worked on her ball handling, which ultimately resulted in a greater confidence,” Gilbert said. “And she’s learned to use her left hand.”
In her junior season, and her third as a starter, Gilbert is raising the bar and holding James to higher standards. But her expectations for James go beyond the number of points she’s getting.
Gilbert is looking for consistency and leadership.
The goal is for her to become “consistent on and off the court, and a leader on and off the court,” Gilbert said.After her tenure with the Eagles, James hopes to begin playing in the WNBA or overseas. In the event neither should occur, the biology major’s plan is to earn her master’s in health administration.