Meeks, Wesley matched up again on 2002-03 All-Europe Boys team
March 23, 2003
For all that’s new in 2003 for the All-Europe boys basketball team, it has a familiar look in the backcourt.
Of the three repeats from last year’s first team — junior center Chris Evans of Wiesbaden and senior guards James Meeks of Mannheim and Travis Wesley of Heidelberg — two have advanced through their careers in virtual lockstep, as rivals and as friends.
“We grew up through the DODDS system together,” Wesley said. “It’s interesting to see how we’ve grown and matured.”
The journey began in 2000-2001, when they made the second team as sophomores.
“Sometimes, I watch old tapes of James and me when we both were sophomores,” Wesley said, “and I have to laugh. We’re both too small.”
The next season, both grew into the players they are today. Both made the first team, and both helped their teams to European championships.
Wesley capped his season by being selected to play on the U.S. Albert Schweitzer team alongside 10 stateside blue-chippers.
The tapes of their sophomore days aren’t as humorous now.
“Now, he’s huge,” Wesley said with a nod to all the muscle Meeks has added. “And I’m a lot taller.”
Meeks said he’ll keep hitting the weights.
“I’ve got to get stronger,” he said. “When I go to the rack, take the ball to the hole, I’ve got to be able to take a hit and still make the shot.”
Both players made plenty of shots this season. Wesley shot nearly 40 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three-point range in averaging 17.7 points, and 5.1 assists per game.
“He is the best point guard in Europe,” Heidelberg coach Brad Shahan said, “but we play him as a shooting guard, and he is also the best shooting guard in Europe.”
Meeks averaged 21.2 points, 4.4 assists and 3.2 steals per game, but Mannheim coach John Crockett, who called Meeks “the best point guard in Europe,” liked his star’s intangibles even better.
“He showed great leadership ... all year long,” Crockett said. “James never took a possesson off — he was relentless at both ends of the floor. He has as big a heart as (anyone) who has played for Mannheim in the last 25 years.”
Each player said their pleasure in making All-Europe was heightened by the success of the other.
“We support each other,” Meeks said, “although when we’re on the court, you wouldn’t know it. On the court, we try to beat each other. But we respect each other’s game.”
“It’s fun,” he said. “Everything that’s happened to me has happened to him. I can talk to him about things that no one else would understand.”
If Meeks is unavailable, Wesley might talk things over with his All-Europe and Heidelberg teammate, 6-3 junior forward Jonathan Williams, while Meeks can meet with All-Europe and fellow Bison, 6-2 junior guard Andre Nelson. Heidelberg and Mannheim were the only schools to place more than one player on the 10-player first team.
Meeks knows why Mannheim landed two on the top 10.
“This community, from little kids to adults, is supporting us all the time,” he said. “It’s the best place in the world to play.”