GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When the Grand Rapids Gold tipped off against the Sioux Falls Skyforce on Monday night, it was a homecoming for one of the Gold’s newest players.

West Michigan native and former Wayland High School standout Lacey James was acquired by the team earlier this week, and sported his No. 4 jersey for the first time in front of his home crowd. 

Prior to joining the Gold, James started the season on the Motor City Cruise’s training camp roster and was later released. Prior to that he spent time with the Westchester Knicks, and played overseas in the British Basketball League. James was also a standout player at Northern Illinois University.

While he’s traveled around the globe playing basketball, he says there’s no place quite like home. 

“I just got to take a step back and say, ‘Oh I got a lot of supporters, not a lot of people could do this or be in this league,'” James said. “So just to have the opportunity, plus doing it in a hometown — I got a lot of people that are rooting for me, and a lot of people that are showing love, and showing appreciation for that.” 

James didn’t see any minutes in his game against the Skyforce, but just getting back on the court is a big deal for him after battling a heart condition since high school. The condition, HCM (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy), makes it more difficult for the heart to pump blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. While James doesn’t experience any major symptoms with this condition, it took him an entire season to get cleared by the NBA to play. 

Now, back on his home court, he’s making the most of his opportunity.

“It was tough. I’m not going to lie to you guys and make it seem like it was easy,” James said. “It was tough, it was a long road, but I learned a lot from it, and I’m happy to be kind of done with it, and kind of be past that, and just be in this position that I am now: be able to play in a game, and be able to play in Grand Rapids again.”