Thanksgiving Hoopfest: Q&A with 2020's No. 1 player, Jalen Green
DUNCANVILLE, Tex. -- Currently ranked as the No. 1 player in the class of 2020, guard Jalen Green delivered big over the weekend at the Thanksgiving Hoopfest.
He had Kentucky's John Calipari out to see him on Saturday night and the Wildcats, along with Arizona, Connecticut, Florida State, Fresno State, Kansas, Maryland, Memphis, Oklahoma State, Oregon, UCLA, UNLV, Villanova, Washington and more have offered the explosive scorer.
During an extended question and answer session, Green discussed everything from his expanding game, recruitment and even unicorns.
Eric Bossi (EB): There can be a lot of craziness for a player like yourself. How much does it help that your parents are handling most of your recruitment right now?
Jalen Green (JG): It helps me a lot because now I can just focus on my hoops and my school and what I have to do.
EB: We have you ranked No. 1 in the class of 2020 right now and you are highly ranked everywhere. Do you feel pressure to perform? Everywhere you go people want to take their picture with you, they want to see the big dunk. Is that tough to live up to?
JG: It’s not really too much pressure, I want all the pressure and I like when players attack because of that. It’s only going to make me better and it’s only going to make me keep working harder.
EB: So is it important to you to be considered the best player?
JG: Yeah, it is. I mean the ranking is important in some ways because it gets my name out there and stuff, but I try not to worry about it too much because I don’t have any control over that and there are bigger things down the road.
EB: What’s the biggest steps you’ve taken with your game?
JG: I’ve started to work on my half court game and operating out of that and more controlled stuff. I’m playing the one now. I played it last summer for AAU, but now I’m playing it for my high school too and I think that’s going to help me step up my game because it’s expanding. I’m not just shooting more, I’m passing more and I’m coming off of ball screens and things like that.
EB: You are such a natural scorer and have a high skill level, but your vision as a passer and seeing the floor to make decisions is there too. Has that been under rated?
JG: It’s somewhat natural but I’m working. Before I was just downhill, downhill, downhill and trying to get to the basket. Now I’m starting to expand and get different looks and it’s becoming more and more natural.
EB: You took your first official visit to Memphis. You’ve got a tie in there with Sam Mitchell who coached you in the summer. How was the visit and what was that like for your first official visit?
JG: It was a great visit. I’m pretty sure that any visit that an athlete takes is going to be a great visit because the coaches are going to tell you what you want to hear and all of the players are going to try and get you to go there and ease you in. So everything is going to be good. But I really had a genuinely good time there.
EB: What was it like sitting there with Penny Hardaway, Mike Miller and coach Mitchell?
JG: Those are some all-time greats. Sam Mitchell coached in the NBA, Penny played and Mike played. So I was just sitting there taking in what they told me, the things that they wanted me to do and get better at. It was great because I could take all of that experience home and work on what I need to do.
EB: They say that they want to take on the Kentuckys, North Carolinas and Dukes of the world at Memphis. When you see them get a James Wiseman, does it open your eyes?
JG: Yeah. They did their thing, they got James. That’s a great player who could have easily went to Kentucky because they were in his top two. For James to take that path and go to Memphis he’s taking a different path and other hoopers can be like you don’t have to go to that big name D1 school to be great.
EB: You don’t seem afraid of creating your own path either. You took an official visit to Florida State next. Being from California, I don’t think anybody expected that for your second official visit. How was that?
JG: It was good. Coach (Leonard) Hamilton is a good coach. He’s been coaching there for a while. I feel like he has great players and a great offensive system with great coaches and a great support system so. At Florida State, that entire city of Tallahassee is supportive to Florida State.
EB: Did anything surprise you about the visit?
JG: There was nothing really surprising. But it was a good visit, I liked it a lot.
EB: You said that UCLA might be your next visit. What has their approach been with you and what do you like about them?
JG: UCLA has been in since my sophomore year, well that was when they offered me. I talk to them and I like them and they are giving me a lot of insight into my game. It is just like talking to any other coaches who tell me what I need to do in order to be on the next level.
EB: You aren’t in a rush to make any decisions, but you do have a couple of visits under your belt. Has anything changed in terms of what you are looking for?
JG: I’m just looking for a coach that is going to be real with me. I’m looking for somewhere that I can be locked in and focused. Somewhere that the coaches are going to let me rock but they are also going to tell me what I need to hear and not just what I want to hear. Somewhere that if I leave early I’ll feel comfortable coming back and finishing school. I would like to be a veterinarian, so somewhere that I could finish that.
EB: Explain this whole unicorn movement, family or whatever it is that you have going on. How did that get started, who else is involved?
JG: It all started at USA Basketball for 16U. I was like I’m going to go out there and start a unicorn family because I got called a unicorn. One of the coaches from Florida State came to watch me practice and said I was like a unicorn and it stuck with me and now it’s gone viral. R.J. Hampton is in it, Vernon Carey, Jalen Suggs, Posh Alexander, James Wiseman, there are a lot of people in it. But I’m the founder, I created it, that’s all me. It just means that you are doing things different and nobody else is doing what you are doing. Like I say I’m a unicorn because I’m playing the one but I can play the two or the three as well and if I have a small guard, me being a big guard, like a Penny Hardaway big guard, I can take a guy in the post.
EB: One last question. Because you make things look easy it can sometimes be mistaken for not playing hard. I watched you in front of a quiet gym, outside of your home state get down and compete. Are you underrated as competitor?
JG: I do feel like people sleep on me as a competitor. People think I’m lazy or that I don’t play both sides of the ball. That’s just not the case. I’m playing both sides and I want to be a two-way player at the next level. People can say what they want, but I’m going to just keep doing me because it’s obviously working.