Pelham will helm Fork Union
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Apr 12, 2013, 20:29
HOPEWELL – The most prolific scorer in the history of Hopewell High School basketball recently scored his first high school head coaching job. Fork Union Military Academy unveiled James Pelham – who racked up a school-record 1,635 points for HHS – as the new coach of its prep basketball team last week.
“It’s been a long-time goal of mine,” Pelham said in a phone interview on Thursday. “And it’s a step in the right direction.”
Pelham’s coaching career has followed the same trajectory as his playing career. After graduating from HHS in 1993, he played one year of post-graduate basketball at FUMA before playing in college at James Madison University.
Likewise, Pelham made his prep coaching debut as Hopewell’s junior varsity coach and varsity assistant before moving on to an assistant coaching role with the post-graduate team at FUMA, a private boarding school in Fluvanna County.
“It’s almost like I’m reliving the path I took before,” Pelham said.
A self-proclaimed “Hopewellian”, Pelham played for renowned Hopewell coach Bill Littlepage. His high school career coincided with two Central District championships and one appearance in the Group AAA tournament.
“It was great playing for somebody that I consider a legend,” Pelham said of Littlepage. “He taught me a lot about winning and about what it takes to fight. Hopewell is a small city, and we were always going against guys from Richmond and bigger schools.”
Pelham went on to play for veteran coaches Fletcher Arritt and Lefty Driesell at FUMA and JMU, respectively. Littlepage, Arritt and Driesell all retired with more than 750 wins, and Pelham counts all three among his professional influences.
“They have shaped me in different ways,” Pelham said. “I learned a lot about the game of basketball from Coach Littlepage, about discipline from Coach Arritt and about the Xs and Os from Lefty Driesell.”
Pelham’s long-term goal is to coach at the NCAA Division I level. His records for points in a season (687), career free throws (472) and free throws in a season (180) still stand at HHS.