KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The clock was running under three minutes at University Arena in Kalamazoo, and Northern Illinois had trimmed the Western Michigan lead down to five.

With his team needing another bucket, senior forward Lacey James found the ball in his hands along the perimeter. He had a good look, loaded up and took the shot. Nothing but net.

James began to make his way down the floor and the Broncos called a timeout. He let out a yell and gave a fist pump as his teammates surrounded him. 

While his team would eventually fall to WMU 72-69, it didn’t take away from the excitement James felt to be back near home. The Grand Rapids native finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

When James thinks back to his days at Wayland Union High School, one thing hasn’t changed — his drive to give hard work. On the glass, blocking shots, scoring in the post, you name it. James always has the mentality of giving it everything he has, and it’s stuck with from being a Wildcat to a Huskie. 

Northern Illinois University men’s basketball player and Grand Rapids native Lacey James. (Feb. 29, 2020)

“I didn’t get my Division I offers for no reason, so I’m going to keep what I’m doing, “James said. “Work hard, it’s just the same thing.”

Of course, it’s not always easy to have a great attitude when things get tough. However, win or lose, James can always count on seeing one person when he looks to the stands — his best friend and mother Karie James.

“Ah, man, I love her, she’s the world’s best mom,” James said with a smile. “She does a lot for me, she supports me, she comes to every game. She works hard at her job and with me. She’s just the world’s best mom.”

On or off the court, it didn’t matter. When Lacey was still in high school, Karie instilled the importance of rebounding in his mind. Now, the senior leads his team in rebounding at 7.8 per game (226 total in 2019-20). 

Lacey also leads his team in blocks with 21 and is second for the Huskies in scoring at nine points per game. 

Northern Illinois University men’s basketball player and Grand Rapids native Lacey James. (Feb. 29, 2020)

Of course, Lacey also put emphasis on how Karie helped guide him through life in general.

“She’s been there for me, through good times and bad times,” Lacey said. “She’s helped motivate me, tell me what’s right and wrong, teach me.

“She’s my partner in the success I’m having in life.”

Currently, Lacey has two remaining games before the Mid-American Conference tournament and any other potential postseason play. That is his main focus right now.

However, professional basketball is what Lacey plans to do after graduation.

“I’m definitely going to play pro after college, but right now, I’m just focused on getting to that MAC Championship,” Lacey said. 

While the results of this season will only be told by time, Lacey can always count on one thing — that his support system and “world’s best mom” Karie will be watching.