Fortunes change from year to year, but perhaps no high school basketball team in the area has undergone a reversal as dramatic as the Freedom-Woodbridge boys this season. The Eagles graduated 13 seniors from the 2014-15 squad that marched all the way to the Virginia 5A state semifinals, leaving this year’s group with a 2-5 record entering 2016. Each of those losses came by at least 25 points last month.
On Monday Freedom experienced another major change of fortune. James West IV, a standout point guard who transferred from Freedom to Christ School (N.C.) last summer, transferred back to Freedom this week. He enrolled in the school Monday and played his first game back with the Eagles Tuesday night against Forest Park.
“I’m looking to come in and hopefully put up big points for Freedom, and hopefully we can get more wins,” West IV, the son of Freedom Coach James West, said before the contest. “I’m just excited to be back.”
He wasted no time making his impact felt, as he registered 13 points, seven assists and four steals to help the Eagles notch 66-53 win over the Bruins of Forest Park.
West IV, a 6-foot-1 junior with offers from Howard and Norfolk State, raised his recruiting stock with an impressive sophomore season for Freedom and some eyebrow-raising performances for his AAU team, D.C. Premier, last summer. He averaged 14.5 points and 3.5 assists per game on a deep and balanced Freedom attack, but it was his smooth handle and precocious command that attracted the attention of private high schools up and down the East Coast.
West broke his foot last August, right before he was set to transition to Christ School. He missed offseason workouts with the team, though he did end up playing for them when the season got underway in November.
Still, the switch, initially intended to kick West’s recruiting prospects into high gear, didn’t feel quite right.
“It just wasn’t really working out,” said West, who is talking to coaches from Navy, George Mason, James Madison and Cornell, among others. “I feel like transferring back to Freedom was the best opportunity for me at this moment of my life.”
To Freedom, West brings a multifarious skill set that makes him capable of dropping 30 points and dishing eight assists on any given night. His dad compares him to Golden State All-Star Steph Curry for his ability to stroke the three ball and beat his man off the dribble.
“Everybody knows what he can do, so when you bring him back and add him with Bryan [Ruffin], we can really make some progress now,” the elder West said. “We’ve still got to get better inside since we’ve got some young, inexperienced guys down there, but that 1-2 punch is going to be a pretty good backcourt to deal with in the public school ranks.”
Ruffin, a 6-3 senior guard, has been shouldering the Eagles’ scoring load since the departure of West and last year’s seniors. He’s averaging 17.5 points, a figure that could rise higher now that he will make a firm transition from point guard to shooting guard.
“I feel relieved,” said Ruffin, who found out about West’s transfer on Twitter Monday morning. “It’s a lot of pressure off my back.”