Ask Ja Morant to play back the first time one of his assists elicited the type of crowd reaction one of his poster dunks gets, and in just seconds, the now-former Murray State point guard has dug through the archives and pulled up the decades-old memory, as detailed as if it happened yesterday.
“I think my first moment was in middle school,” Morant said. “I drove from the left wing to the middle of the floor. My teammate was on the left block. I drove to the middle and acted like I was going up for a layup so the defense jumped to try and block the shot. I threw a pass behind my head and (my teammate) had a wide open layup. That was that first moment when I got the oohs and ahhs from an assist that I really liked. I wowed myself.”
Morant finished the 2018-19 college basketball season averaging 24.4 points and 10.2 assist per game, the first player in NCAA history to average 20 points and 10 assists a night in a single season. His passing ability is what has him primed to potentially be the second player taken in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft, with rumors coming out of Memphis that the Grizzlies are enamored with the mid-major point guard that took college hoops by storm last season.
Though Morant speaks methodically, his South Carolina-infused southern drawl giving each sentence its own leisurely cadence, don’t mistake Morant’s “aw shucks” vibe for kindness on the court. He’s heard the criticisms of his game, the whispers that his stats are inflated thanks to inferior competition, the “overrated” chants he got on the road in college, and he’s facing them all head on.
Just a few weeks before he’ll walk across the stage to shake Adam Silver’s hand, Morant spoke to UPROXX courtesy of Panini America about handling his newfound fame, being heckled by his own father and why putting on weight is a priority.
What’s been the most surreal part of this pre-draft process so far for you?
Becoming a part of different families, starting with Panini. When I was younger, I used to have trading cards. To have my own is a dream come true. Signing with a shoe brand as big as Nike, that’s another dream come true. And going down the line. That’s the most surreal thing right now.
Speaking of signing with Nike, do you have a favorite shoe of theirs? And do you have an idea of what you might pull out for your NBA debut?