MERRILLVILLE | When Josh James arrived at Andrean two years ago he was barely scratching the 6-foot marker on the Andrean height chart.
It's possible he even had to strain his neck to ride a roller coaster at the county fair. Wile E. Coyote's outstretched hand is way up there for those who are on the small side.
Then something happened. He started to grow. Like a weed.
James grew seven inches and put on 60 pounds in less than 24 months.
"It's mind-boggling," Andrean coach Carson Cunningham said. "It really is."
Last year in limited time on varsity, James averaged 1.2 points and one rebound. Over his last eight games this winter James is putting up 17 points and 14 rebounds.
For the season James is averaging a double-double -- 11.1 points and 10 rebounds.
"I was a guard when I got to Andrean," James said. "Then I started to grow."
The Manute Bol magic wand was not all good for James. Not at first anyway. The swift wing player evaporated.
"When you grow that much, that fast, all of my coordination went out the window," James said. "I had trouble catching the ball. I couldn't dribble. I didn't know where anything was going."
Soon God-given confidence turned into a sweaty fist striking the padded wall.
"Multiple times I got extremely frustrated," James said. "I had played so well. And now I was this. My frustration was there. But I just kept working hard."
James said he gained a lot by participating in the St. John the Evangelist CYO team from fifth grade through eighth. He also played in the Lake Central AAU program.
Tonight Andrean will host Class 4A No. 1 Munster in the Northwest Crossroads Conference tilt. James and his mates hope to keep their improvement going against the top team in the state.
"Every year Munster is one of our biggest games," James said. "Hopefully, I think we're ready. We have to come out and play hard."
Munster's success has also been enhanced by a big man who is also playing at a much higher level than last year. The Mustangs' Ricky Carbajal has made a very good team great.
That's what James is trying to do, too.
"Josh has really committed himself to getting stronger," Cunningham said. "He's a very fast learner. He applies the things our staff gives him very quickly. Sometimes it takes a couple of days. Sometimes a couple of minutes.
"Munster will be a great test for him, for all of our guys. We've had some bright moments this year. Munster's a really, really awesome team, and it gives us another fantastic chance to see where we're at with the tournament coming up."
The draw for the 101st IHSAA state tournament is Sunday.