By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The craziness of 2020 has continued.
News broke out of South Salem Thursday afternoon that Hilary James, a two-time conference Player of the Year in 2018 and 2019 as well as an All-State Selection in 6A as a sophomore and Junior, has decided to forgo her Senior Year of basketball and graduate early from High School. She’ll be early enrolling at Lipscomb University where she has committed to play basketball at.
In her three years as a Saxon, James helped lead South Salem to a 55-23 overall record, 37-7 in conference play, two Mountain Valley Conference titles and a trip to the Chiles Center this past season as Junior before the Coronavirus Pandemic hit after their quarterfinal victory against McMinnvile. James scored a game-high 35 points as South Salem roared to life in the fourth quarter on March 11.
And through the grind of battle, it’s the little things that James will miss as the Saxon-grad graduates early and embarks on the next chapter of her academic and playing career.
“I’m going miss singing on the bus rides with my teammates and leading dribbling drills at workouts and practices,” she said. “I’m most excited about the new relationships I’m going make with my team and just the level of grind day in and day out at the college level.”
For Head Coach Adrian Lewis, whose first year taking over the South Salem girls basketball program was James’ freshman year, backs his point guards decision. Knowing how tough it was to walk away from possibly her final year of High School ball, but knowing the first time he saw her four years ago that James was bound to do some great things down the road.
“First, I am just thankful to have been a part of her journey. She is one incredible player. She puts in countless hours and is never satisfied with herself. That will take her a long ways in this world. It is bittersweet to see her go. I am so excited for her and totally agree with her decision,” said Lewis. “I would have probably done the same thing given the circumstances that we are in. As her coach, I am sad I won’t be able to coach her senior year. She has accomplished so much and wanted to see what her senior year had in store. She gave everything she had to this program.
“We both started this high school journey together. I remember my first year as the head coach seeing this little freshman during summer ball light up her opponents. I knew then she was going to be a star!! We both had our moments but I think it strengthen both of us. Just so proud of her. I cannot wait to watch her play at the next level. Once a Saxon always a Saxon.”
Lipscomb University is a Division-1 college located in Nashville, Tennessee. The Bison are apart of the Atlantic Sun Conference and went 7-23 last season and 4-12 in the ASun Conference.