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Temetrius Jamel "Ja" Morant[1] (born August 10, 1999) is an American basketball player who most recently played for the Murray State Racers of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) in NCAA Division I. An All-American as a sophomore in 2019, he is widely considered one of the top prospects as a potential top-three pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

Ja Morant
No. 12 – Murray State Racers
PositionPoint guard
LeagueOhio Valley Conference
Personal information
Born (1999-08-10) August 10, 1999 (age 19)
Dalzell, South Carolina
NationalityAmerican
Listed height6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Listed weight175 lb (79 kg)
Career information
High schoolCrestwood (Sumter, South Carolina)
CollegeMurray State (2017–2019)
Career highlights and awards

Born in Dalzell, South Carolina as the son of former basketball player Tee Morant, Ja Morant was lightly recruited by NCAA Division I programs and unranked by recruiting services despite earning All-State distinction at Crestwood High School in Sumter, South Carolina. He made an immediate impact at Murray State, earning first-team All-OVC honors as a freshman. Morant had a breakout sophomore season, which saw him win OVC Player of the Year and lead the NCAA in assists. As a sophomore, he also became the first player in NCAA history to average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game in a single season.

Contents

Early life and high schoolEdit

Morant was born in Dalzell, South Carolina to Tee and Jamie Morant.[2][3] His father was a high school teammate of Ray Allen and played basketball for Claflin University before starting a professional career abroad.[citation needed] However, he ended his basketball career when Ja was born and became a barber instead.[1][4] Morant trained in his backyard with his father, who taught him step-back jump shots and bought tractor tires for him to practice jumping with a soft landing.[5] In his childhood, he often faced older opponents, telling his mother, "I'm not worried about the big kids."[6] Morant played in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) circuit with the South Carolina Hornets, a small grassroots team based in Columbia, South Carolina. For a single season, he was teammates with Zion Williamson, who would become one of the top players in his class.[7]

Morant attended Crestwood High School in Sumter, South Carolina.[2] He grew from 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) to 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) in his first three years with the basketball team.[1] Morant left as its all-time leading scorer, with 1,679 points and set a career-high with 56 points against Sumter High School.[2][8] In his final two seasons for Crestwood, he averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game, earning South Carolina Class 3A All-State honors in both years. Morant also left high school as a three-time All-Region Most Valuable Player (MVP).[2] Morant could not dunk until he was a senior.[5]

RecruitingEdit

Morant was not ranked by recruiting services ESPN, 247Sports, or Rivals.[9][10][11] His only high major NCAA Division I offer came from South Carolina.[12] He was accidentally discovered by mid-major program Murray State of the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) in July 2016, when assistant coach James Kane attended a camp hoping to see a player who was joining his team. While looking for a snack, Kane noticed Morant playing a three-on-three game in an auxiliary gym; impressed, he contacted head coach Matt McMahon, who soon offered Morant a scholarship.[13] On September 3, 2016, Morant committed to playing for Murray State during dinner at McMahon's house.[1][4][14] His father said, "Every parent wants their child to play at a big-time program, but what I realized is, don't go where you want to be, go to where they want you."[1] His other Division I offers included Duquesne, Maryland Eastern Shore, South Carolina State, and Wofford.[14]

College careerEdit

Freshman yearEdit

On November 10, 2017, Morant debuted for Murray State with 7 points and a team-high 11 assists in a 118–61 victory over Brescia University of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).[15] He recorded his first career double-double on December 12, 2017, with 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists in a 69–55 loss to Saint Louis.[16] He posted his first triple-double on December 28, recording 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists in an 80–52 win over Eastern Illinois. It was the second triple-double in school history, the first coming from Isacc Miles in 1984, and was also the record for most assists at a CFSB Center game, surpassing the old mark of 12 established by Aubrey Reese against Alabama State in 1999.[17] Morant also had the third-most assists in a single game by a Murray State player.[18] On February 1, 2018, he scored a season-high 23 points against Southeast Missouri State.[19] After averaging 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game, Morant earned first-team All-OVC and OVC All-Newcomer Team accolades.[20][21] He became the seventh freshman in 25 years to accumulate 150 assists, 150 rebounds, and 10 blocks while shooting at least 42 percent from the field.[12]

Sophomore yearEdit

As a sophomore, Morant assumed a leading role for Murray State with the departures of key players Jonathan Stark and Terrell Miller.[22] In his season debut, he recorded 26 points and 11 assists in a 74–53 win against Wright State.[23] On November 24, 2018, Morant posted 29 points, a season-high 13 rebounds, and 12 assists in a 77–66 win over Missouri State, becoming the first Murray State player to ever record multiple triple-doubles.[24] In his next game, he scored a season-high 38 points in a 78–72 loss to Alabama, the 12th-most single-game points by a player in school history.[25] By around December 2018, Morant was almost unanimously projected as a top-five selection in the 2019 NBA draft, and in late January 2019, at least one outlet forecasted him as the first overall selection.[26] According to Yahoo! Sports journalist Pat Forde, "He seems almost certain to be the first top-ten pick from a mid-major school in five years (Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette), and could be the first true mid-major pick in the top five since Michael Olowokandi of Pacific went No. 1 in 1998."[26][a]

On January 10, 2019, Morant was named to the midseason top 25 watch list for the John R. Wooden Award.[27] On the same day, he broke the school record for most assists in a single game, with 18, while scoring 26 points against UT Martin.[28] He established a new scoring career-high nine days later on January 19, when he recorded 40 points, 11 assists, and 5 steals, shooting 21-of-21 from the free throw line, in a victory over SIU Edwardsville.[29] He broke the OVC record for most consecutive free throws made in a game, and he became the tenth player in Murray State history to record a 40-point game.[30] Morant also became the first NCAA Division I men's player in 20 years to tally at least 40 points, 10 assists, and 5 steals in a single game.[29] On February 2, Morant collected 28 points and 7 assists in a 67–63 win over Tennessee Tech. He broke the school single-season assist record of 212 set by Chad Townsend in the 1996–97 season.[31] After posting 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 14 assists in a 102–70 victory over Eastern Kentucky, Morant became the 46th Murray State player with 1,000 career points and eclipsed the OVC record for single-season assists previously held for 32 years by Duane Washington of Middle Tennessee.[32]

At the end of the regular season, he was named OVC Player of the Year and first-team All-OVC, while leading the NCAA Division I in assists.[33][34] He later earned first-team All-American honors from the United States Basketball Writers Association and second-team All-American honors from Sporting News.[35][36] On March 8, in the semifinals of the OVC Tournament versus Jacksonville State, Morant scored 29 points, including a game-winning three-point play.[37] One day later, he recorded 36 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists in a 77–65 victory over Belmont for the OVC Tournament title.[38] Morant was subsequently named the tournament's MVP.[39] On March 21, in an 83–64 win over fifth-seeded Marquette in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament, Morant posted 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists. He became the eighth player to officially record a triple-double in the history of the tournament.[40][b] In the second round, he chipped in 28 points in a season-ending 90–62 loss to fourth-seeded Florida State. During the game, Morant set school records for career assists and single-season points.[42] He closed his sophomore campaign averaging 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 10 assists, and 1.8 steals per game.[20] Morant became the first NCAA player to ever average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game in a single season.[43]

Following Murray State's loss in the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, Morant announced his intention to forgo his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2019 NBA draft, where he is projected to be a first-round selection.[44]

Career statisticsEdit

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
* Led NCAA Division I

CollegeEdit

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2017–18 Murray State 32 32 34.0 .459 .307 .806 6.5 6.3 .9 .4 12.7
2018–19 Murray State 33 33 36.6 .499 .363 .813 5.7 10.0* 1.8 .8 24.5
Career 65 65 35.3 .485 .343 .810 6.1 8.2 1.4 .6 18.7

Personal lifeEdit

Morant has a younger sister, Teniya, who grew up playing basketball with him in their backyard and now competes for Hillcrest Middle School in Dalzell.[1][45] He has the words "beneath no one," advice his mother gave him, tattooed to his left arm.[1]

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ Forde did not consider two top-five selections between 1998 and 2018 from schools outside the traditional power conferences to be "true mid-majors", saying "Lamar Odom, the No. 4 pick in 1999 out of Rhode Island, really doesn't fit the mid-major profile. He was a hugely celebrated recruit who took a rather scandalous route to a second-tier program. Neither does Adam Morrison, the No. 3 pick in 2006 out of decided non-mid-major Gonzaga."[26]
  2. ^ The NCAA's official Division I record book only recognizes triple-doubles that took place in seasons in which the NCAA kept track of the relevant statistical categories throughout Division I. Assists were recorded in the 1950–51 and 1951–52 seasons, but were not recorded again until 1983–84. Blocked shots and steals were first officially kept in 1985–86. Some listings of tournament triple-doubles include games that took place in tournaments in which the official scorers kept count of all relevant statistics, but the NCAA did not.[41]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Woo, Jeremy (January 23, 2019). "Ja Morant, Murray State's High-Flying Star, Is No Longer College Hoops's Best Kept Secret". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "Ja Morant". Murray State University Athletics. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  3. ^ "Ja Morant". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved November 24, 2018.
  4. ^ a b Sandlin, Blake (February 22, 2018). "From Tee to Ja: Morant finishing what his father started". The Murray State News. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Sayers, Justin (January 29, 2019). "The best NBA prospect you've never heard of? Murray State's Ja Morant". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  6. ^ Greer, Jeff (December 20, 2018). "Who's Ja Morant? The Murray State star is quietly making a name for himself and will soon be in an NBA city near you". The Athletic. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  7. ^ Norlander, Matt (January 23, 2019). "Court Report: The real story of Ja Morant and Zion Williamson playing on the same AAU team". CBS Sports. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  8. ^ Aubrey, Will (November 10, 2016). "Racer recruiting class 'among 10 best'". Racer Insider. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  9. ^ "Ja Morant". Rivals. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  10. ^ "J.A. Morant". ESPN. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  11. ^ "Temetrius Morant". 247Sports. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  12. ^ a b Hoy, Jackson (June 29, 2018). "2019 Draft Primer: Ja Morant, The Ultimate Sleeper". The Stepien. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  13. ^ Dortch, Chris (January 25, 2019). "Once a little-known prospect, Morant has everyone's attention now". National Basketball Association. Retrieved January 28, 2019.
  14. ^ a b Byerly, Justin (February 16, 2017). "Future Racer: Ja Morant". Prep Hoops. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  15. ^ "Racers Lockdown Brescia - Hawkins On Fire With 28 Points". Murray State University Athletics. November 10, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  16. ^ "Racers Can't Make Fast Start Last At Saint Louis". Murray State University Athletics. December 12, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  17. ^ Murray State Basketball 2017-18 NCAA Tournament Guide, p. 9.
  18. ^ "Morant's Triple-Double Leads Racers Past EIU". Murray State University Athletics. December 28, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  19. ^ "55-Point Second Half Leads Racers To 4th Straight Win". Murray State University Athletics. February 1, 2018. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  20. ^ a b "Ja Morant Stats". ESPN. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  21. ^ Long, James (February 27, 2018). "Racers' Stark earns player of the year". KFVS-TV. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  22. ^ Hickey, Pat (December 17, 2018). "Next task for the Aces? Figuring out how to defend future NBA lottery pick Ja Morant of Murray State". Evansville Courier & Press. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  23. ^ Winder, Dave (November 16, 2018). "Morant having impact at Murray State". The Item. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  24. ^ "Morant leads Murray State past Missouri State 77-66". USA Today. Associated Press. November 24, 2018. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  25. ^ "Showman Morant Dazzles But Racers Fall At Alabama". Murray State University Athletics. November 26, 2018. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  26. ^ a b c Forde, Pat (January 29, 2019). "How a hungry coach led to the discovery of viral college sensation Ja Morant". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  27. ^ "College basketball: 2019 John Wooden Award midseason top 25 announced". National Collegiate Athletic Association. January 10, 2019. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  28. ^ "Morant & Brown Lead Racers' Blitz At UTM". Murray State University Athletics. January 10, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  29. ^ a b "Ja Morant Scores 40, Murray State Rolls Past SIU-Edwardsville". Sports Illustrated. Associated Press. January 19, 2019. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  30. ^ "Morant Sets OVC Free Throw Record - Racers Win At SIUE". Murray State University Athletics. January 19, 2019. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  31. ^ "Racers Rally For Win At Tech - Morant Sets Assist Record". Murray State University Athletics. February 2, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  32. ^ "Racers Hit Century Mark - Morant Sets OVC Assist Record & Reaches 1,000 Points". Murray State University Athletics. February 16, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  33. ^ "Racer Trio Named All-OVC - Morant MVP & Buchanan Defensive POY". Murray State University Athletics. March 5, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  34. ^ Northam, Mitchell (March 20, 2019). "3 one-on-one matchups we can't wait to see in the NCAA tournament". NCAA. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  35. ^ "2018-19 Men's All-America Team". United States Basketball Writers Association. March 18, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  36. ^ "Morant Named Second-Team All-American by Sporting News". Ohio Valley Conference. March 11, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  37. ^ "Morant hits winner, sends Murray St. to OVC final". ESPN. Associated Press. March 9, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  38. ^ He, Eric (March 9, 2019). "Ja Morant drops 36 points against Belmont as Murray State punches ticket to March Madness". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  39. ^ Wimsatt, Jessica (March 9, 2019). "Murray State's Ja Morant rising to stardom". WEHT. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  40. ^ "Morant Thrives, Racers Advance With NCAA Win Over Marquette". Murray State University Athletics. March 21, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  41. ^ "Individual Records" (PDF). 2018–19 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Records. p. 2. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  42. ^ "Racers' NCAA Run Ends With Loss To Florida State". Murray State University Athletics. March 23, 2019. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  43. ^ West, Jenna (March 23, 2019). "Ja Morant Ends Season as First Player in NCAA History to Average 20 Points, 10 Assists". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved March 24, 2019.
  44. ^ "Murray State star Morant declares for NBA draft". ESPN. April 3, 2019.
  45. ^ "Lady Barons first in shooting qualifier". The Item. December 12, 2018. Retrieved January 30, 2019.

External linksEdit