Beating the buzzer for a game-winning 3-pointer would help anybody get in good with new teammates, but George Washington sophomore point guard James Bishop already had a quality rapport well established.
There’s no question the former Mount Saint Joseph star, who transferred to the Colonials after one season at LSU, has proved to be an instant hit.
Through 10 games — the winning 3 came Jan. 3 in a 75-73 win over Atlantic 10 rival Duquesne — Bishop is among the conference leaders, averaging 19.7 points and 6.1 assists per game with the Colonials (3-7, 2-1).
So when he describes his transition from LSU to George Washington as just “pretty good,” that assessment seems on the low end of the spectrum. He’s quick to pass along credit.
“Everybody here has made me feel real comfortable and I was able to settle in and have success on the court,” said Bishop, who entered the transfer portal and received a waiver to play immediately after his freshman season last year. “It’s goes back to coach [Jamion Christian] having a lot of confidence in me, my teammates having a lot of confidence in me and allowing me to just play my game, make mistakes and play through those mistakes. When you have a coaching staff and teammates like that, it kind of makes it easy to adjust and play freely.”
The 6-foot-2 Bishop has needed to make plenty of adjustments in a short time under the trying circumstances brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. A lights-out scorer at shooting guard for Mount Saint Joseph — he was a two-time All-Metro first-team pick and finished with 2,106 points in his four-year career — Bishop didn’t start playing point guard until he went to LSU.
Limited playing time his freshman year — he appeared in 16 games and averaged 3.1 points in 8.6 minutes — was a big part of his decision to move on to George Washington. Despite learning a new system with a new coach and teammates and limited practice time because of the pandemic, Bishop immediately thrived. Being reunited with his best friend and high school teammate Tyler Brelsford, a freshman guard, has been a big plus.
Christian, in his second season at George Washington after successful stints at Mount St. Mary’s and Sienna, hasn’t been surprised. During his recruitment of Brelsford, he saw Bishop’s skill set and it has proved ideal in the Colonials’ point-guard friendly system.
“I’ve kind of gone away from traditional points guards, guys that just get us into our offense and help guys score,” Christian said. “I want guys that can score the ball themselves and create for others and I felt like James had the right kind of personality to be able to settle in and do that. Obviously, he scores so easily and efficiently, but you have to want to create for others to play point guard and show you can really dominate the position. So far this year, he has done that and I’m not surprised. I’m excited to have him on our team.”
Much like Bishop’s development at point guard, George Washington is mostly young and a continued work in progress. Four of the team’s seven losses this season have come by four points or fewer.
The team’s mantra emphasizes getting better every day and that perfectly suits Bishop, who continues to learn more and more about the point guard position. He has always been willing to put in extra time to improve his game. Despite not getting much playing time at LSU, he said all the practice time he got there helped him learn how to run a team. Film study, constant communication with Christian about the nuances of the position and his eagerness to learn his teammates’ tendencies have further helped him get up to speed.
He loves having the ball in his hands and the responsibility that comes with it, knowing what buttons to push to put his stamp on a game.
“I think that just comes with maturity and knowing you have great players on he floor with you, so you have to get those guys their looks because they’re able to make big shots, too,” he said. “So I think it’s just finding the balance, knowing the situations of the game, knowing maybe I need to be a little more aggressive right here or maybe you need to look for my teammates and get them involved and going because we’re going to need everybody on our team.”
Bishop can play freely knowing that any mistakes are part of the journey of becoming a better player. Christian constantly acknowledges that as part of any player’s growth.
“To be a great player, you have to learn how to take risks. So you don’t want to make a guy timid, you just want to make a guy smarter,” Christian said.
“So it’s not about when you make a mistake, it’s about how you recover from that mistake and your ability to learn from that mistake. If you truly believe that, you really believe you can learn from that, you’re going to have a chance to be really good. James has really taken a hold of that.”
It was fitting that Bishop’s winning shot last week came off a pass by Brelsford. The two have played together since they were 6 years old — starting out in the Old Court youth recreation program in northwest Baltimore County. In April, when Bishop told Brelsford that he was transferring from LSU and George Washington was showing interest, both thought about how cool a reunion would be. IBishop committed a couple day later.
From Day 1 this season, Brelsford has seen the same Bishop, albeit playing a different position, as the one that starred at Mount Saint Joseph. He finished his Gaels career with 126 wins — the most by a player in program history.
“He can score the ball really well, but he also wants to get everybody involved. And he’s just a killer, he has a killer mindset. He always competes — every play he’s competing and he just loves to win,” Brelsford said. “He’s always up for a challenge, and when he gets challenged that’s when he’s at his best. So I’m really not too surprised what he’s doing.”