As men’s basketball plods out to a losing start to the nonconference slate, the Colonials’ hopes for a successful season rest with a key DMV native guard.
Baltimore-born junior guard James Bishop has been a revelation for the team since arriving as a transfer from Louisiana State last year. Head coach Jamion Christian said he’s a “special” player and person who will only continue to get better.
Bishop finished second in the Atlantic 10 last year in points per game with 19.1 while notching a career-high 29 points in GW’s second round exit to George Mason in the A-10 Tournament, nearly half of the team’s 59-point output that day.
“He might be the most underrated player in the country right now,” Christian said. “I’m glad to say he’s ours because he plays the game with so much love and appreciation for the work that he puts in. I haven’t had a more consistent player in my life.”
Distribution was also a major part of Bishop’s game in his debut season in Foggy Bottom, ranking fourth in the league with 5.1 assists per game. Christian said his assists are an “important number” given the wealth of new talent they have on the squad this year.
“When he came here from LSU, we talked a lot about him playing with the ball in his hands and being able to learn how to create for other people,” Christian said. “And he’s done an outstanding job that I don’t think he got enough credit a year ago for how he was able to create for the guys we had on our roster. He’s only gotten better at it.”
Bishop was a three-star recruit out of Mount Saint Joseph High School but did not make an immediate impact as a freshman at Louisiana State. He averaged 3.1 points over 8.6 minutes per game on a Tigers team that finished in third place in the Southeastern Conference before transferring to GW for his sophomore year.
Recruiting higher-profile players from top programs via the transfer portal has been a theme during head coach Jamion Christian’s time at GW, with Bishop as the clear standout thus far. Christian has brought in seven players from the traditional Power Five conferences and the Big East in the last two years in an attempt to bolster the roster and accelerate the rebuilding process.
Graduate student Brendan Adams, a transfer from Connecticut, also hails from Baltimore and said he and Bishop have been playing against each other since the age of eight at the high school and AAU levels. He said their games against each other were “always the big game in the city.”
Bishop and Adams both said the opportunity to play closer to home was a major factor in their decisions to come to GW. Bishop said that his family in Baltimore was influential in his early life when it came to playing sports, playing for the first time when he was just 5 years old.
“I just fell in love with the game when I started playing,” Bishop said. “My favorite player was Kobe Bryant, so I looked up to him, and my brother and my dad always played basketball.”
Bishop said his older brother used his basketball experience to work out with Bishop and train him on the court, helping him rise to become one of the most coveted players in his class from the DMV.
Looking toward his second campaign in Foggy Bottom, Bishop said he has been improving his game on the defensive side as well as working on his shooting and facilitation of the offense during the offseason. He said his improvement in the passing game will contribute to the offensive look of the team being centered around spreading the ball to multiple scorers this year.
“Just really moving the ball a lot, keeping the ball moving,” Bishop said. “We got a lot of great scorers, a lot of great shooters on our team, making sure everybody’s touching the ball, making sure everybody’s involved in the offense.”
Sharing the love on offense and incorporating more players into the attacking game plan will be a significant change from the 2020 Colonials, which saw Bishop and sophomore forward Jamison Battle combine to take 49 percent of the entire team’s field goal attempts.
So far across the first five games of the season, four Colonials have attempted 45 or more shots, while Bishop is tied for the on the team in scoring along with Adams while averaging 12.6 points per game.
Bishop said the opportunity for leadership was another core aspect of his development over the offseason in order to bring a winning mindset to a roster that underwent a massive overhaul during the summer.
“That’s the biggest thing for me is to be able to lead guys,” Bishop said. “Being a winner and being able to win and being able to lead are the things I’m really focusing on.”
His attitude and personality have rubbed off onto the rest of the squad, as sophomore center Noel Brown said Bishop’s growth both on and off the court has been “outstanding.”
“I love playing with James,” Brown said. “He’s my favorite person to play with. I try to get workouts in with him. We build our chemistry and I think James is honestly a perfect leader. I think he really helps my team in so many different ways. I really love James, just a good guy.”
This article appeared in the November 22, 2021 issue of the Hatchet.