Rising sophomore point guard Raven James, who last month advanced to the final rounds of tryouts for the girls’ under-16 national team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado, has transferred from ISL AA tournament champion Bullis to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference contender Paul VI Catholic.
James’s transfer, from the team that finished No. 17 in The Post’s rankings to the team that finished No. 5, further strengthens Paul VI, which has aspirations of winning its first WCAC title next season.
A skilled ballhandler and three-point shooter who advanced to the late cuts at nationals despite being an applicant for the tryouts and not an invited player, the 5-foot-6 James joined the Paul VI workouts in recent days and was helping out Thursday at the Panthers’ youth basketball camp.
James and her father, Ron, a prominent area AAU coach, said the transfer came about because the WCAC is a stronger league than the ISL and would be a better place for her to improve her skills.
“The level of competition is different,” said Raven James, an Upper Marlboro resident who attended Bullis for four years and was earmarked as the Bulldogs’ point guard of the present and future. “I’m just looking for that extra edge to get better. Having a chance at a bigger title and getting to go more places [for games], I think it’s a better opportunity for me to better my game.
“It’s a big difference. I get to see all those players during the AAU season, and now I’ll get to compete against them during [the regular season]. The WCAC always has great players coming in, and great competition. A lot of great players came out of there that I look up to.”
One of those players is now a teammate. James has a history with Paul VI senior guard-forward Ariana Freeman with various AAU organizations, including currently with the Team Takeover 16-under team coached by Ron James. Freeman, who has committed to NCAA runner-up Louisville, will be the only first-team all-conference returnee in the WCAC next season.
“Our family decided it was time to move in a different direction for her,” said Ron James, an assistant principal at Kilmer Middle School in Fairfax County, about nine miles from Paul VI. “Paul VI just gave us the fit that we were looking for. She wanted to play for Paul VI and do something that’s never been done before and hopes she can be an integral part of them winning the WCAC championship.”
James’s move comes as a blow to Bullis, which finished 21-5 last season and boasts rising senior post player Lynee’ Belton, one of the top recruits nationally. Another rising senior at Bullis, guard-forward Kirby Porter, also is receiving interest from several schools.
“It’s an opportunity for [James] to grow and get better with whatever it is that she wants to do,” Bullis Coach Rod Hairston said. “I was surprised, and losing a player of her caliber will definitely be a loss for the program. But the program will continue to thrive and do well just as she will over at Paul VI.”
Paul VI graduated only one of its top five scorers, guard Marlena Tremba, off a 29-4 team. The Panthers next season would have been considered WCAC contenders, or perhaps front-runners, even without the addition of James. Paul VI won its first 13 conference games last season.
“She’s a competitor,” Paul VI Coach Scott Allen said. “She loves the game of basketball. She’s a great student. She’s a good kid. That’s what we want in our program.”