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By Kayla Bates

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Sunday’s trip to Arkansas will be extra special for Mississippi State women’s basketball freshman point guard Jerica James.
The North Little Rock, Ark., native makes her first trek back to her home state when the Lady Bulldogs (14-12, 4-9 SEC) meet the Razorbacks (19-6, 8-5 SEC) at 2 p.m. inside Bud Walton Arena.
Sunday’s contest, the second meeting of the season between the two squads, can be heard on WKBB-FM 100.9 and WXWX-FM 96.3.  
The first game back home in front of family and friends can be nerve-wrecking, but James is looking forward to the opportunity.
“Am I nervous? No,” James said. “There will be people in the stands I graduated with, and my family will be there. I will have a ton of support, and when you have support, you play differently.”
James hopes she can build on a stellar showing against Ole Miss, MSU’s in-state rival, last Sunday. The 5-5 rookie logged a season-high 23 minutes off the bench, scoring five points while notching a pair of steals.
The transition to the collegiate level, especially the SEC, has been one of progression for James following a standout career at North Little Rock High School
“Coming to MSU, I had to make a new identity for myself. No one knows who I am like they did back home,” James said. “I have to show them that I deserve to be out here with all the other SEC players, and that’s why I continue to work hard to get better.”
James definitely made a name for herself playing point guard for her high school squad that compiled a 126-4 record during her career. As a senior, she was named Arkansas’ Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American nominee after leading the Lady Charging Wildcats to a 28-1 record. That one loss snapped a 59-game win streak that included a Class 7A state championship and No. 15 national ranking her junior season.
James hopes her prep success will benefit MSU in making a return to the postseason. While making the adjustment to the SEC, James has the benefit of learning from two of the best guards in the SEC in seniors Diamber Johnson and Porsha Porter.
“They have taught me things coming out of high school that no coach could ever show me,” James said. “They show me every day that smaller guards can get in there and be leaders on a team.”
Knowing she has a lot of learning to do, she believes with hard work her dreams can be achieved,
“I think my skills are developing and will continue to develop and grow. I plan to do big things here!”
James will be hoping for a big showing Sunday in her homecoming.
“I am pretty excited,” James said with a big smile. “I have been counting down the days since they beat us last month. I am ready!”  



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