The Yankee Caper
Getting away to eastern Canada was what Baltimore native James Dorsey needed to mature.
by Ray Bala / @CanBallReport
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia is a quiet island tucked away in eastern Canada where, on a good day, you can probably see the Atlantic Ocean engulf everything on vast horizon. It’s an area that has been known for its mining but had to make room for an American import that has really shone brightly over the last four years.
His name is James Dorsey.
Coming from the hustle and bustle of the Baltimore area, Dorsey’s biggest issue wasn’t that it was a much slower pace. He actually likes that it’s much quieter and more laid back in Cape Breton. The biggest transition for him was being a foreigner in a foreign place.
“[When] I came to a place I did not know a single person,” Dorsey states. “To be away from my family and friends…the biggest challenge to me was to be sociable and start my life all over again. [But] for me to get my life back on track I needed to get away from the city environment.”
Dorsey was talented player coming out of Winters Mill High School just outside of Baltimore where he was All Metro as a junior. He was being courted by several Division I schools and had even settled on attending Binghamton after his senior season but he didn’t qualify academically and was sent on a different path that almost led him off the court permanently.
“Out of high school I had some trouble and Binghamton didn’t work out for me,” explains Dorsey. “[I had] more of a focus on me and I kinda lost the hope for basketball. I got caught up in some stuff that I wasn’t supposed to and I have no one to blame but myself.”
He may have become another hardwood footnote if it hadn’t been for a coach at a local community college who brought Jimmy, as he’s known, back into the game. He credits Benny Edison, who was head coach at Howard Community College at the time, with really getting him off the bench, getting his mind straight and back into the game he once found joy.
“My grades weren’t [that good] coming out of junior college,” admits Dorsey. “I didn’t take school and basketball too seriously. I [really] took it for granted and Edison always tried to reinforce not to take it for granted because it could be gone the next day.”
With the grades still not what Division I schools were looking for despite his year in junior college, Edison offered an alternative—Canada. Edison had made a call to his coaching colleague Jim Charters, who was then the head coach at Cape Breton, and Dorsey was on his way.
And since coming to the Great White North, Dorsey has been the star basketball attraction for Cape Breton University Capers. He has steadily improved his already impressive game in his time with the Capers and was named the Atlantic University Sports conference Player of the Year last season and is making a very strong case to make it an encore this year.
A self-described shy type off the court, Dorsey’s game is more than loud enough for anyone to take notice. Through the first seven games of the Capers season, he’s averaging 25.4 points, which is good enough for second in the entire Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS), the Canadian version of the NCAA, helping the team stay undefeated at 7-0. Add that he’s also averaging 5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 4.4 steals per contest and he’s looking like an all-star in anyone’s league.
This season he’s going to need to be the leader since he’s the only fifth year player (the CIS allows players to play five years) on a team that has seven newbies. And as the elder statesman so to speak, he knew it was one of the things that he has to be for his team to continue to succeed.
“[I’ve always] let my play speak for itself,” says Jimmy. “I was never vocal. Coach Matt Skinn gave me that goal from the start. [They and I] knew that I’d have to be the engine of the team, lead us in the right direction.”
There is little doubt that it will be Jimmy that will be the one responsible for orchestrating the run for his team. And as an older, wiser person now, he’s mindful to keep his head low and his eyes on the ultimate prize—another conference title and possible a national title as well.
So with all that’s riding on his senior season, I had to ask if he ever thought about all the attention he’d be getting this year from media and opposition.
“It’s hard for me to take that stuff seriously,” Dorsey says. “To come from nobody to be somebody, it hasn’t hit me yet. It feels good that people recognize my effort that I’m putting out…but right now I’m trying to get that championship.”
Spoken like the city player that’s matured in the Canadian Atlantic.
Ray is a freelance journalist based out of Toronto. He’s written for SLAM, SLAMonline and Hoop among others, as well as done work for Canada Basketball. He also talks about all things Canadian hoops on The Can Ball Report or you can follow him on Twitter at @CanBallReport.