The recent revelation by Stanford’s Sara James of her battle with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome begs the question … was she afflicted with the early stages of the condition while leading Oak Ridge to the 2010 CIF State Girls Division I title?
The timeline given is vague — “sometime” between James’ senior season at Oak Ridge and her freshman year at Stanford is when she began experiencing bouts of discomfort in her lower legs.
Looking back, specifically at her senior season, James, by far the most talented player on the court, had size, strength, ability, will and smarts in wrapping up her remarkable four-year varsity career in El Dorado Hills.
What was missing was pure quickness. Had CECS began to take that away from James?
She thrived in the Trojans’ uptempo, chaotic system that granted her numerous steals and offensive putbacks. She could spot up for the perimeter shot, shoot over defenders or power her way to the basket.
But her game, in my opinion, at the end of her prep days, had a slight element of stiffness to it that wasn’t evident earlier in her career … as if all the pounding had taken its toll.
Against Grant in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs at the University of the Pacific’s Spanos Center, a Grant Pacer stood between James and the basket and played honest straight-up defense. James couldn’t beat her off the dribble, had a playoff low in points and Oak Ridge barely escaped to the next round.
I left Stockton that night thinking that was the one void in James’ arsenal.
After Troy’s championship win in Bakersfield over Long Beach Poly, our paths crossed at a wedding between her freshman and sophomore college years. There, she expressed uncertainty about returning to the court — but for different reasons.
I now understand her being reluctant to divulge a potential medical scenario back then.
James addressed her situation through surgery and now sits two wins away from an NCAA title.
Injuries are one thing at the college level, lack of playing time is another. Both are tough to deal with.
It’s difficult knowing James isn’t the player she used to be.
If memory serves, that meant James was, hands down, always the best on the floor.