Basketball lasts forever, but basketball players don't.
Although Ralph James is just out of the starting gate--as a freshman, he leads the Crimson in scoring--he can already see the finish line.
While many players spend their lives looking forward to the day they will be able to play in the NBA, few ever actually make it. And the few that do make it are unprepared to face the "real world," having tuned their athletic instead of academic skills.
James is making sure he will not follow a similar path.
"Basketball will not last forever," says James, "and I want something to fall back on, and education is it."
As with many outstanding students. James was looking at the leading academic colleges--Ivy League schools, Stanford and Duke--in his junior and senior years in high school.
And the colleges were looking back at him. In James, they saw a top talent who could give immediate help to their programs.
After all. James has always been an impact player. At 6-ft., 4-in. and 200 lbs., James is usually too big for enemy forwards.
A three-year starter at Archbishop Molloy in New York, the West Hempstead, N.Y., native was captain of the Catholic School champions and the nation's number-three high school team, averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds a game.
In addition to being named first team All-State his junior and senior years, he was also on both the Converse All-American and Converse Academic teams, and honorable mention All-American.
And he could have been guaranteed the opportunity to continue his winning ways if he had picked Duke, a national basketball power and regular participant in the NCAA championships, or Stanford, a Pacific Coast power.
But he picked Harvard and a basketball team which had gone 15-37 over the past two years and had never captured an Ivy title.
He has been asked many times--by the media and others--why he picked Harvard over the basketball powers.
"I just tell them I picked Harvard because of the education. That's what I was really looking for in a college. I was considering other schools, but when I got my acceptance letter, I asked myself, "How in the world can I turn this down?"' James says.
So far, James has had immediate impact on the team. He leads the squad in scoring (14.1 points per game) and rebounding (5.7).