Ja Morant's super fast track from Crestwood to NBA comes to fruition today in NBA draft

BY DENNIS BRUNSON dennis@theitem.com
Posted 6/20/19

At this time two years ago, Ja Morant had just graduated from Crestwood High School and was getting ready to head to Murray State to play college basketball. While he was preparing to play with an NCAA Division I program, the National Basketball …

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Ja Morant's super fast track from Crestwood to NBA comes to fruition today in NBA draft

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At this time two years ago, Ja Morant had just graduated from Crestwood High School and was getting ready to head to Murray State to play college basketball. While he was preparing to play with an NCAA Division I program, the National Basketball Association draft was at best a hope - likely four years down the road - or more likely a dream. Now, with the 2019 draft set for today in Brooklyn, New York, it is a definite reality for Morant. Really though, it is far, far more than that. Morant isn't hoping to be drafted, waiting to see where he will be picked and to whom he'll be going. Unless something shocking happens -- and there is always that possibility - Morant will be the No. 2 overall selection of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Any question marks that were out there were likely removed on Wednesday when Memphis dealt its longtime point guard Mike Conley to the Utah Jazz. That move obviously left the door open for a new point guard - and again, while anything can happen - that seemingly left the door open for Morant to step in and fill that void.

Again though, the fact that Morant is blazing his way into the NBA - in just two years at a mid-major school no less -- is sometimes hard for those of us who watched him and are familiar with his story to comprehend. It was easy to see the athleticism he possessed at the high school level, but for that to translate to the college game and send countless NBA scouts to his games throughout his tremendous sophomore season is, again, a bit hard to wrap one's brain around.

Looking back on it though, what may have set the stage for his rapid ascent as a top 5 pick among NBA executives as a sophomore was the way Morant performed as a freshman with the Racers. He came into a situation with a couple of established veteran players already on hand. Instead of imposing his will, as a point guard is able to do since he controls the basketball a lot of the time, Morant chose to step into the role the team needed at that time.

He was the distributor he was supposed to be, averaging over six assists a game. He was the third option when it came to scoring, averaging over 12 points. More strikingly though is the fact he averaged over six rebounds, good numbers for a slender, 6-foot-3-inch freshman playing at any level of DI.

That gained him a bit of notoriety entering the 2018-19 season, but then Morant blew it off the charts with his stunning sophomore season.

Morant averaged 24.6 points and 10.0 assists per game for Murray State, which went 28-5 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He became the first player in college basketball history to average at least 20 points and 10 assists since assists became an official statistic in the 1983-84 season.

Morant also averaged 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals. He shot 50.3 percent from the floor and 81 percent from the free throw line.While the highlights shown of Morant are often of his awe-inspiring dunks, the analysts talk about his unselfishness and playing within the team concept. That is actually viewed as a positive thing in the NBA today.

That Ja and his family will be sitting backstage at Barclays Center not expecting a long wait to hear his name called will have to have a surreal feeling to them. However, it goes to show what hard work and having a dream can bring to you.

Enjoy your accomplishment, Ja. Enjoy what is now your reality.