James Siakam attacks the glass with strength and athleticism. While he is a couple inches shorter than his listed height of 6'-7", he can be effective around the basket. Illinois fans enjoyed his hustle and overall energy, that is until he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his knee and had to sit out the last half of the day.
A member of the class of 2011, Illinois is looking at Siakam as a possible recruit. But according to Siakam, Illinois Coach Bruce Weber has not yet singled him out for special treatment on his talented team.
"Coach Weber watched us play a couple of times and came to our practices. He came to watch the whole team. It's not really individually yet."
He likes the UI, but he is in no hurry to decide on a college.
"It's a really good school, I like the gym. Right now, I'm not really focusing on what school I am going to. I'm focusing on working, and I'll wait until my senior year to see what other opportunities open up."
Brehm Prep is not a public school. It's players stay together, on and off the floor.
"The team chemistry is really good. We are living together as brothers and family, and the team chemistry is great. We really don't have a choice (laugh)."
Siakam has played basketball only a short time. He traveled from Africa to attend the school, and he admits it took him awhile to adjust.
"The difference is really big. When I first got here, it was really hard for me because English was not my first language, and it was really hard because I was really lost. I like it here better though."
It has helped to have another African join him at Brehm. Emmanuel Ochinje is a slender 6'-9" post player who is even more raw than Siakam and is going through the same adjustment period.
"At times I get homesick, and it's really important to be with someone who came to the same continent as you. He's from Nigeria and I'm from Cameroon. We're really just neighbors in Africa. It feels good to be around someone like that."
Ochinje has even less experience with basketball than Siakam, and he also had to learn English. Siakam says he is making progress.
"At the beginning when I first met him, Emmanuel was struggling. Now he understands the system better, and he's getting better. He works hard all the time. We push him really hard. He's a good person. We're working all together."
Siakam is developing a mid range game. If he can become a consistent scorer from 15 feet, he will be recruited as a 3-4 by numerous major colleges.