In describing then-freshman guard Sion James to a reporter last year, Green Wave basketball coach Ron Hunter called him a winner — someone with that enviable quality known as the “it” factor.

Green Wave's men basketball team guard Sion James on the court
Sion James plays guard on the Green Wave men’s basketball team. He was also named chairman of the American Athletic Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

“He’s one of those guys that just has ‘it’ — on and off the court,” Hunter said a year later. “He has a great work ethic. He understands the value of doing the right thing. You don’t have to tell him what to do.”

James, a 6-foot, 5-inch guard from suburban Atlanta, is one of Hunter’s star players. A business major with a focus on legal studies, James has his eyes set on playing professionally, then moving into coaching and eventually becoming an athletic director.

He has an impressive start, having been named chairman of the American Athletic Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which serves as the voice of student-athletes from 12 member institutions. Among other things, the committee promotes student-athlete well-being, academic achievement, personal development and community service.

James began his term in June 2022, and one of the first things he did was organize a virtual panel discussion on stress and other aspects of mental health.  “It used to be so taboo to discuss mental health issues,” James said. “Now we’re able to have conversations that would have never happened before, especially in college athletics.”

Discussions surrounding diversity and inclusion have been equally fruitful. “My biggest focus is putting on events that student-athletes actually care about and not just ones that check boxes,” James said.

When James isn’t on the court, studying for exams or working on AAC business, he is involved in community service projects, including Samaritan’s Feet, a nonprofit that provides new shoes to children in underserved communities. He is also working with former teammate Sandy Ryan’s nonprofit Ryan’s Giving Tree, which assists homeless people in New Orleans.

“Every Saturday we get volunteers together to pass out food, drinks and supplies to the homeless,” he said. “We just get in our cars and meet them where they are. We’re working to get them in more permanent housing. It’s a great program and incredibly rewarding.”