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PAUL closes in Western Market
By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

James Bishop IV closes curtain on GW career

Tom Rath | Staff Photographer
Fifth-year senior guard James Bishop IV looks back on his record-breaking career in the Buff and Blue.

The last four years of men’s basketball have seen a lot of upheaval. 

Following the conclusion of the 2021-22 season, officials fired Head Coach Jamion Christian, who had failed to reach a .500 record in any of his three seasons coaching the team.

The team’s second and third leading scorers, guards Joe Bamisile and Brayon Freeman, each transferred to other schools, leaving the program with a gutted roster that newly hired Head Coach Chris Caputo was tasked with filling.

He found a “crutch,” however, in one holdover: guard James Bishop IV.

A self-described quiet guy, he transferred to GW in 2020 following a quiet freshman season at LSU. And in a college sports ecosystem where players are quick to transfer and coaches are fast to leave, Bishop, year after year, has stayed. 

The on-court success was to be expected. He had already led GW in scoring his first two years on the team and had the high school resume to earn him a Power 5 scholarship.

Off the court, however, might have been where Bishop was most important to the basketball program. The soft-spoken, even-keeled Baltimore, Maryland, native was a veteran presence and a leader to players and coaches alike, a constant in years of losing streaks, coaching changes and transfer portal uncertainty.

“For me, he was really a crutch,” Caputo said following the team’s A-10 Championship loss against La Salle, Bishop’s last game in the Buff and Blue. “As you’re trying to build a program, trying to build new players, you’re trying to do a number of different things. To have a guy you could lean on a little bit in certain situations was certainly just a blessing.”

GW’s on-court reliance on Bishop was clear throughout his entire tenure. In his three years as a Colonial and one year as a Revolutionary, Bishop was always in the top three in the A-10 under KenPom’s percentage of possessions used, or %POSS. %POSS measures a team’s dependency on a player by counting how often the player’s actions end a possession — either by making or missing a shot or from a turnover. In the A-10, he was first in %POSS and percentage of shots taken in the 2020-21 and 2022-23 seasons. In the 2022-23 season, Bishop was sixth in Division I in minutes per game, averaging 37.6.  

The team’s reliance on Bishop was clear in a game at VCU this January.

Tied at 82 with just 10 seconds left, Bishop put the game in his hands. He dribbled up the court and, though guarded tightly, wouldn’t give up the ball. As the clock ticked closer to zero, Bishop catapulted up a shot from the edge of the paint, contorting his left arm to get around the defender.

The ball soared into the net with just one second left, putting the Revs up 84-82 to end the game.

Tom Rath | Staff Photographer

Despite his ubiquity around campus and basketball stardom, Bishop keeps a low profile. He has no social media and, according to Caputo, “has a tremendous amount of humility” in a world that he says lacks it.

When asked what he’ll miss about playing at GW, Bishop said he’ll miss playing in front of his family and spending time with his teammates.

“It’ll be different,” Bishop said. “Me not being on campus and living with the guys.”

The adoration between Bishop and teammates is mutual. Guard Brendan Adams, who played his final collegiate season in 2022-23, grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, playing against Bishop in rival Amateur Athletic Union and high school teams. After entering the transfer following three years playing at the University of Connecticut, Bishop proved to be a big pull factor for Adams to come play at GW. The two ended up rooming together in South Hall, using their shared history and friendship to build an on-court rapport.

At a game this season, a video was played where players were asked who the “dad” of the team was. The player named more than any other? Bishop. 

“James Bishop’s probably going to go down in the history books at GW,” redshirt freshman forward Darren Buchanan said in a postgame press conference following the team’s Feb. 27 loss against Massachusetts. “I tell him all the time, we’re playing with a legend. So why not try to send him out the right way? People dinged him as a loser pretty much his whole college career. And coming in, I told him I’m coming here to play alongside you, but I want to help you win.”  

The 2022-23 season, the first under Caputo, was Bishop’s best statistical season. He eclipsed 40 points in two games: a career-high 44 in a November loss against Hofstra and 40 against Loyola Chicago to start conference play. After the season, after flirting with the transfer portal and despite ostensible opportunities to play for a Power 5 program, Bishop chose to return to GW for his fifth year.

“I wouldn’t change the decision to come back for anything,” Bishop said in a postgame interview after the A-10 tourney loss. “I really created great relationships. Yeah, I’m honestly just thankful for this opportunity to even play at this level.”

In his four years on the team, GW never finished above a .500 record. Last year’s team came closest to a winning record for Bishop, ending the year 16-16 and 10-8 in the A-10.

Midway through this season, it looked like the team had finally gotten over the hump. A Jan. 15 win against George Mason brought the team to 14-3, including 3-1 in the A-10. The team wouldn’t win again for nearly two months.

The team embarked on a 12-game losing streak, tumbling to the bottom of the conference. It wasn’t until a March 6 game against St. Bonaventure, Senior Day, that the team won again. Bishop led the team with 27 points in his final game in front of the Smith Center crowd.

Tom Rath | Staff Photographer

“Bittersweet” was how Bishop described his final Smith Center game. With less than a minute left and the game all but over, Bishop was subbed out one final time. As he exited the game, he embraced freshman guard Trey Autry.

As the clock struck double zeros, he stood frozen on the baseline, watching the crowd celebrate for the first time in weeks — what would be the last time. 

A person that’s often described as mild-mannered, that day, Bishop wore an ear-to-ear smile that lasted from the handshake line, throughout “Hail to the Buff and Blue,” well into autograph signings, and into the locker room postgame.

When asked to reflect on how he absorbed his final moments, Bishop answered simply, highlighting his teammates.

“Just trying to celebrate with my teammates,” Bishop said postgame. “Having a good time with my teammates. Taking in the arena for the last time, just enjoying the moment.”

The team ended the season with a 15-17 record, going 4-14 against A-10 opponents.

Despite the difficult year, Bishop still impressed, earning spots on the NABC All-District Second Team and the A-10 Third Team All-Conference behind his team-leading 18.3 points-per-game average. In a year marred with injuries and frequent changes to the lineup, Bishop started all 32 games.

“Still being myself, continuing to work extremely hard, I think that’s kind of what has defined my basketball career, in a sense,” Bishop said. “Just being able to get through harder times and still coming on the outside still me and still doing the same things that got me here.”

When asked about post-college plans, Bishop said he is “just trying to pursue the highest level of basketball I can play at.”

“I think when you’re playing and you’re in the mix of it, you’re kind of just trying to focus on day by day, just getting better and being the best you can be,” Bishop said. “But now that I’m done, I’m able to kind of look back and be proud of some of the things that I did.”

Peter Harrell contributed reporting.

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