At every Stanford women's basketball home game, Sara James can look into the stands and see her parents, Mike and Kelly James, there in support. She knows they've driven a long way to see their only daughter play for the top-ranked Cardinal.
Friday was a relatively short commute to UC Davis to watch their daughter and her teammates crush the Aggies 87-38 at the Pavilion to improve to 7-0.
Sara James was The Bee's 2009 Player of the Year out of Oak Ridge High School and is now in her junior season on the Farm. Mike and Kelly James make the drive from their El Dorado Hills home to Palo Alto and either stay overnight at Kelly's brother's home in Cupertino or make it home in the wee hours of the morning. They've seen more of the Interstate 80 and Highway 50 corridors than most Caltrans crews.
"It's really the only way we get to see her during the season," Mike James said of the 15 or 16 drives to the Bay Area each season for games, or the occasional flights to watch his daughter. "She's just so busy during the season.
"We saw her for three hours over Thanksgiving, and we usually see her, maybe, three days over Christmas break."
James said she appreciates the considerable effort her parents make. She just wishes she'd play more.
James is averaging 11 minutes and 2.6 points per game. She started the first game of the season against Fresno State, a 72-61 victory, but did not score.
But Friday night, she had season highs in points (10) and minutes (19). She added a team-high two steals and had three assists and two rebounds.
Coming out of high school, James was one of California's top prep prospects a state champion and she expected to take her game to the highest levels for Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. That hasn't happened. But the 5-foot-10 guard isn't disappointed in her decision to play for the Cardinal and said she has never considered transferring in search of a starring role elsewhere.
"I'm getting a great education, I'm learning from the best coach in the world, and I'm playing with my best friends," said James, a human biology major thinking about becoming a doctor or nurse when her playing days are over. "I have a role on this team, and that's to push our starters every day to make them and our team better."
Stanford had an easy time Friday night, asserting its size and talent advantage on almost every possession. Forward Chiney Ogwumike showed why she is one of the best players in the nation with 19 points and 11 rebounds in the first half alone.
Ogwumike said she appreciates all that James does for the team.
"(Sara) is the most competitive person I've met at Stanford," Ogwumike said. "In drills or in games, she is a force."