James Southerland – born and raised in Jamaica – has been around the world during his five-year pro career, which has taken him to France, Italy, Germany, the NBA, and the NBA G League.
This summer it landed him back in Brooklyn for The Basketball Tournament, where the Syracuse alum suited up for Boeheim’s Army for a third straight year.
“I know a lot of people from New York who never left,” Southerland told BQE Media after Boeheim’s Army defeated Team Fancy, 60-55, on Sunday, earning a shot in the Super 16 for $2 million. “If you think about it, you’re traveling the world doing what you do, getting paid for it. I’ve been playing high competitive basketball everywhere. It means a lot.”
After a 2009-2013 career at Syracuse, where the Benjamin Cardozo High School alum averaged 13.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and shot nearly 40 percent from three as a senior, Southerland went undrafted in the NBA selection process, but subsequently found himself with the Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Pelicans in 2013-14, where he accumulated four NBA appearances.
From 2014-2016, Southerland played in the three foreign staples, where he competed at the highly competitive EuroLeague level, widely considered the second-best basketball played in the world following the NBA.
Southerland also returned to the States in 2016, where he had played his most recent two seasons with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the G League affiliate to three-time NBA Champion Golden State.
He now plans on playing in Japan next season, which he jokingly refers to as one of the only countries he has yet to visit, to play for the Aisin Seahorses in the recently formed Japan Professional Basketball League.
“I want to have a great year in Japan,” said Southerland, who looks forward to the new challenge that awaits him about one hour from Tokyo. “I haven’t been to Japan so I want to check it out, and I really want to win a championship. I was lucky to win a championship my first year in France.”
At TBT, Boeheim’s Army is known for producing perhaps the tournament’s most noteworthy group of supporting fans, especially when the tournament visits New York City, which the past two years has been at LIU Brooklyn’s Steinberg Wellness Center.
Southerland is one of the only New York City born players to play at Syracuse in recent years, but still feels like the Orange is the team of the boroughs. When you see how well the Orange legion travels, even at the pro-am level, it’s difficult to dispute.
“College-wise, we’re definitely New York City’s team,” said Southerland. “I definitely feel it, you know? Being a Queens kid, even though we don’t have a lot of guys who were born and raised in the city, we still represent New York City ourselves.
“And of course, we’re the team that people want to take down, so it’s always going to be highly competitive basketball,” he added.
Boeheim’s Army reached the TBT Final Four one summer ago after emerging from Brooklyn victorious in the Super 16, which will take place in Atlanta this season. Though, they were eliminated by eventual champion Overseas Elite in 2017, the college connection has manufactured an elite mainstay in TBT competition.
For Southerland, he doesn’t only liken the experience to his college days, which included a trip to the Final Four as a senior in 2013, but the local product says it’s like playing back at home, because many of his summer opposition also played basketball in New York City growing up
That includes Christ the King’s Erving Walker and Ryan Pearson, Iona’s Scott Machado, and St. Francis Brooklyn’s Akeem Bennett.
“I feel the experience like it’s really high up there in my career,” he said. “We all grew up in what I feel like was a great basketball era for high schools because you’ve got a lot of guys who went division one and went pro. We had a really talented class and a lot of us went major D-1 so it was really good
“It’s just all these years later to still be playing against them, it’s really like playing park ball at home,” he added.