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Simeon’s Cameron James commits to Minnesota

The Golden Gophers now have commitments from six of the state’s top 25 juniors.

Cameron James at a Simeon football practice.
Cameron James at a Simeon football practice.
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times

The Public League’s top-ranked junior has joined the parade of local talent heading north.

Simeon lineman Cameron James became the latest area player to join Minnesota’s highly regarded recruiting class on Sunday when he announced his commitment on Twitter.

James is ranked 12th among Illinois juniors and 44th nationally among offensive tackles in the composite rankings.

Minnesota’s 2021 class, which is ranked No. 8 nationally by Rivals, now includes six players in the 247Sports top 25 for the state: No. 2 Antioch quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis, No. 5 Hillcrest running back Mar’Keise Irving, No. 6 Naperville Central quarterback Sam Jackson, James, No. 17 Providence tight end Jameson Geers and No. 23 Antioch receiver Dino Kaliakmanis.

The local angle was less important to James than his impression of Gophers coach PJ Fleck and his staff.

What did James like?

“How they’ve communicated, how they actually cared,” he said. “I like how they proved themselves to be somebody to look up to.”

Because of the coronavirus lockdown, James wasn’t able to visit Minnesota’s campus. But he liked what he saw in a couple of virtual tours.

Minnesota is getting a player with exceptional mobility and athleticism, according to Simeon coach Dante Culbreath.

“He was going to play tight end for us last year [until another player left the program],” Culbreath said.

Simeon has been known for producing exceptional linemen, and James “ranks right up there with them all,” Culbreath added. “He’s going to be the one with all the intangibles — 6-8, 285 [or] 290 pounds and he can do a back flip at that size.”

Because of his size, James always played above his age group in youth football. That continued when he got to Simeon and was practicing against upperclassmen as a freshman.

“It helped me get my anger up,” James said.

He first realized he could play at the Power Five level about a year ago.

“Summer going into my junior season, end of my sophomore year — that’s when I started developing my skills and started taking everything seriously,” James said.