MACwood Squares is our summer reading series on the best athletes in Mid-American Conference sports history. This week features Eastern Michigan. Looking for your MAC school? Consult our schedule for other teams and please submit your nominees as well.
This whole exercise is meant to highlight the past, and indeed EMU has lots of it. When mentioning still-active players in the same breath as the all time greats — BEFORE their senior season — that can carry with it a world of weight, pressure, and assumption. But think of Tim Tebow or Maya Moore. Their three were far better than others' four. In the scope of women's basketball — or perhaps Eagles athletes in general — you know that Tavelyn James is great. And inches from the school scoring record, she has a whole year left.
A few years before James set foot in Ypsilanti, EMU was glowing over a woman named Ryan Coleman who still ranks among one of the top MAC scorers of all time, not to mention being well-rounded with rebounds, assists, and steals. (And to an extent, Coleman is absolutely a nominee.) Her promising career after Eastern never took off. She did sign a contract with the WNBA's Detroit Shock but never played; she dabbled a little in Poland basketball but nothing seems to have come of it.
But now we have James. Much like Coleman, she grew up in Detroit and is continuing to write her legacy. At 1,709 career points, she's already third place in school history, just 84 behind Coleman and just 190 behind all-time scorer Laurie Byrd. In each of the last two seasons James notched 641 and 642 total points, the two best scoring seasons in EMU history. So with any semblance of a healthy season, she will reach that mark and skyrocket the new benchmark. But how far can she take it?
In the 2010-11 season, she was a major player in guiding EMU all the way to the Sweet 16 of the Womens National Invitation Tournament. They had never even won a postseason game, and this time they took two against Michigan and UNC-Wilmington. She currently holds both of EMU's only 40-point games in history. And she's twice been named First Team All-MAC. A third is in sights, and you could make a salient argument she'll be the best player in the MAC next year.
Perhaps it's premature to anoint her as one of the nine greats, but if nothing else consider this your calendar appointment to keep your eye on EMU women's basketball in 2011-12.
Who are your nominees for Kent State's MACwood Squares? Comment below, tweet us at @HustleBelt or submit a FanPost making your case. The final nine will be revealed Friday.