Wells upholds family tradition

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Wells's athleticism has made an impact on both ends of the floor for the Wolverines.
Grove City Athletics photo

By Joe Sager

Who says defense isn’t genetic?

Shot-blocking ability runs in the Wells family, at least.

Grove City sophomore James Wells continued the family tradition when he set the Wolverines’ single-game record for blocked shots with six in a 66-54 win over Waynesburg on Jan. 24.

That gave the family a clean sweep in that department nearly seven years after his older sister, Alison, set the mark for Grove City’s women with eight blocks on Jan. 26, 2011.

“I called my sister up about a half hour after I found out. She was excited as well,” Wells said. “It’s cool to have something like that we can share.”

Wells has been a bright spot as a first-year player at Grove City. He averages 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

“He can stretch the floor because he shoots it well from the perimeter. He’s athletic and can dunk with ease,” Grove City coach Steve Lamie said. “We didn’t know the specifics about him until Oct. 15. But, when we saw him those first couple practices, we knew he could definitely help us. That’s what we were wishing and anticipating.”

Even though Wells grew up in Vermont, about 10 hours away from Grove City, he became very familiar with the college after sisters Alison (a 2011 graduate) and Annie (’14) came to Grove City and played basketball. However, Wells wanted to try his hand at a higher level of basketball and wound up at McGill University in Montreal, just a two-hour drive from his home.

He saw limited action on one of the top Canadian teams. Then, he decided to follow his sisters’ path to Grove City over the summer.

“McGill was close to home. They have amazing academics and athletics up there. I loved my time up there. I played in a handful of games for them and we were very good. I had some great coaches and mentors ahead of me who helped me get better,” he said. “It just turned out that the door remained open for me at Grove City. When things got really busy up in Montreal, I was still very interested in Grove City. When I found coming there was an option, I talked to Coach Lamie and he still wanted to have me. I figured I’d give it a shot and here I am.

“Some of the strongest influences for me to come here were my sisters. They both loved their time at Grove City. They really laid out to me what my remaining years would be like here and it was a good picture. I am loving my time here.”

Lamie was thrilled to have Wells, an athletic 6-foot-7 forward, join the program.

“James had always looked at Grove City, primarily because both of his sisters came here and had good experiences in the classroom and with their athletic careers. He had been on campus many times to visit them and watch them play,” Lamie said. “We couldn’t convince him to come to

Grove City right out of high school. Thankfully, he turned to us after things didn’t work at McGill.”

It didn’t take Wells long to fit into the Wolverines’ system. He earned a starting spot this winter.

The transfer has been a total team player as his role continues to evolve.
Grove City Athletics photo

“It had been a while since we had seen James play. We just remembered what he was like coming out of high school and we watched some of his highlight tapes from high school. We got the lowdown on him from his sister Annie, who played here. She’d fill in the gaps. Annie would call me and I would call her. Maybe it was bias what she said, but after seeing him play now, her bias was accurate,” Lamie said with a laugh. “There’s always a reason why someone wants to transfer. Is there baggage? Is he not coachable? Was he a problem? Does he have needs? All of these things were in the backs of our minds. We’ve had four transfers in over 20 years that I’ve been here. There was no baggage. There was nothing that caused him to transfer. He just came here and assimilated right into our system and our guys. He is very well-liked.

“Probably, coming from a higher level of basketball, one might think he is coming to a D-III team and he’d be the center of the universe and all roads would go through him. That’s not his personality or his upbringing or demeanor. He just fit right in. I think our current players really respected that.”

Wells is thankful to have strong leadership at Grove City.

“We do play a very different system at Grove City than what I played in at McGill. But, I have Andrew Beckman, Cory Huff and Jon Grim as three senior leaders on the court and Jeff Schmidt as well,” he said. “They have been really great helping out with not only the Xs and Os, but instilling the core principals of the team and the program. They’ve helped me have a smooth transition here.”

The six blocks were no fluke. Wells leads the PAC with 38 swats. He is among the top rebounders, too.

“That is probably his best attribute – he can rebound offensively and defensively. He has good hands,” Lamie said. “Defensively, it probably took him longer to adjust because we switch everything. That took some getting used to because it was nothing he had ever done before.

“Now that he has been with us for more than 60 practices, he understands what to do and does it. We’ve seen over the last couple practices he has more basketball savvy and IQ. In his own way and in his own time, he’s starting to be a more vocal personality on the team. That is good. As we lose four seniors this year, he is going to be on the leadership group next year, no doubt. He is going to play a prominent role for us.”

Wells looks forward to improving his game.

“Playing good competition makes you better and our conference is really competitive. That’s fun. We really pride ourselves in our defense here. Although I am not there yet and have a lot of growth

left, in terms of my defense , my defense is one of the areas where I am developing, especially this season,” he said. “I can’t take total credit for all the blocks. My teammates put a lot of pressure on those guys putting up shots. They make it easy on me.”

Grove City is 13-6 overall and in the middle of the PAC at 6-6. The Wolverines want a strong finish over their final six conference battles.

“The conference is tough because you can’t take a night off against anyone,” Wells said. “But a lot of the teams are so close that you can go into a game against anyone knowing you can win. That gives us confidence. If we play our best and to our standards, we can hang around with anybody.”

Joe Sager

Joe Sager is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh. He has written about sports since 1996 for a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites. He first covered D-III football in 2000 with the New Castle (Pa.) News.

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