Jaleen Smith is a 22 year old 193cm guard from Freeport, Texas that completed his rookie season in Germany with the MLP Academics Heidelberg (Germany-ProA) averaging 7,6ppg, 2,8rpg and 2,9apg.. He had a stellar four year career with New Hampshire (NCAA) from 2013-2017 where he played a total of 120 NCAA games. He improved his scoring, rebounding and assists average each season and as a senior he played 32 games averaging 15.8ppg, 6.4rpg, 4.3apg, FGP: 52.4%, 3PT: 35.8%, FT: 78.1%. He spoke to German Hoops at the end of his rookie season.
Jaleen thanks for talking to German Hoops. Congrats on a solid rookie season in Germany. However your season ended on a sour note losing to the Romerstrom Gladiators 3-2 after being up 2-1. How disappointing was ending the season like this?
There is No disappointment here. I’m so glad to have started my rookie season with great coaches, players, and Management. Yes I wished we would’ve won the series, but that takes nothing away from the great season MLP Academics had this year.
Were these the toughest two back to back loses in your young career? Did this compare to anything you witnessed in the NCAA?
Man the Game 4 loss in Trier really hurt. We just didn’t finish the game at the end. Game 5 was just an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Even though I haven’t played a lot of professional games, this maybe was the funniest series I will ever play in. This series compares to nothing in the NCAA it’s really different.
The MLP Academics Heidelberg were up 2-1 games to one. You could have wrapped up the series at had a date in the semi-finals with Crailsheim. Would it be fair to say that Heidelberg lost the series in game 4 in crunch-time?
We had it in both game 4 and 5. We just didn’t finish the job.
The MLP Academics controlled the first half, but what adjustment did the Romerstrom Gladiators make in the second half that helped them get the lead and keep it? They shot better and rebounded better, but had 7 more turnovers, but that didn´t help you either.
It wasn’t there adjustments more or less. We just didn’t hit the shots we usually make in the game. We just never got on a run either.
Despite bowing out to the Romerstrom Gladiators, how proud are you of the season? Do you feel like the team didn´t exceed expectations that seemed to rise as the season went on?
I’m so proud to play for this organization. This place is just a great start to my young career. I would like to thank Cole McKeel of GoEmpire Group for putting me in the best position to start my career.
Let´s talk about the team season. The club started very slowly having a 6-5 record, but then had a4 game winning streak and then lost 3 in a row. What really was keeping the club from having a more consistent season?
We just had a really tough stretch there, but as you see it’s not how you start but how you finish. We stuck with it and started winning.
The best stretch of the season came from January 22-March 25 where you had a 9-2 record. What did you learn about the team most in this time?
We really played for each other. We are the definition of TEAM. Not one guy plays for themselves.
What was the team season highlight? Possibly the two exciting razor sharp wins over the RheinStars where you outscored them by only 5 points combined.
We had great games with Köln. I would say just the whole season in general. Through the wins and losses, we learned a lot playing with each other.
Let´s talk about your teammates. How much of a thrill was it playing with fellow rookie Evan Mcgaughy. How important were you both for each other as rookies especially at the start having to deal with so many new things on and off the court?
Man Evan is great. Great roommate I also may note. It was so fun playing with him. He can do it all on the court. He can pass, dribble, shoot, and rebound for a power forward now you have to have all those things and he fits the mold for a typical 4 man. We learned a lot off the court from food to street signs telling us we’re to park and other things as well.
Eric Palm came in late as an added scoring threat to help bolster the team offense. How important was having an experienced guy like him at the guard position? Did you learn some valuable tips about shooting?
It was great having Eric, he taught me a lot of stuff that I will carry with me for a long time. He didn’t just teach me shooting tips but more importantly he taught me how to move without the ball. Just learning when to cut on offense. Having him come in was such a joy and a great pick up for the team.
How did you see the development of 24 year old German guard Niklas Wuerzner? He has improved his scoring each season and had solid rebound and assist stats this season. What did you appreciate most about his game and what part of his game improved the most?
Nikki turned himself into the floor general of our team. If you watched our games, you can just see it. He’s going be really good in a year or 2 so be on the lookout for him. He just has a great feel for the game. He plays at his own pace and doesn’t let the defense dictate how the game going to be played. I feel his passing got more and more better as the season went on. More like his vision on the court was through the roof. He could see everything in front of him or behind him.
Let´s talk about your game. Going into game 5, you averaged 7,7ppg, 2,9rpg, 2,8apg and shot 33% from outside. How content were you with your rookie season in Germany?
I can never be satisfied with anything I do. Just not in my nature to be content. So, I’m not content with my season I had. I just want more you know. I JUST WANT IT ALL.
Was it a tough adjustment coming from the NCAA where you averaged 36 minutes as a senior with New Hampshire(NCAA) to only playing 21 minutes per game with Heidelberg? Was having to be more efficient a difficult task?
The adjustment was really tough. Just staying on the court the whole game to just half a game is really different. It was tough trying to be more efficient that was something really different also.
You stated in our first interview last summer about your biggest strength as a player as “My scoring ability from all levels of the floor and my leadership can help as well”. You didn´t have the huge scoring numbers, but what do you feel was your biggest asset that you gave the team this season?
Just doing the little things for my team. Just doing the dirty work to help my team win games. Also learning all aspects of the defense like on and off ball defense.
In our last interview you stated, “I’m a gym rat so I know there is always some to improve on with my game but now I’m trying to master it”. On what things do you feel did you make the biggest strides in your game as a rookie?
Just knowledge of the European game overall. My shooting improved also as the season moved on as well so that was great too.
You shot 33% from outside. What do you feel that you will have to do in order to reach 40% at some point in the next years besides more reps?
CONFIDENCE!!!!!!!! I have to have confidence that I’m a shooter, so I have to shoot my shot.
What was your personal season highlight with your play on the court? Possibly your 19 points against the RheinStars and 17 points against Trier even if they were loses?
My favorite would be the 17 at Trier even though we lost. I was playing for a friend that died a day before that game so I would always remember that game because of him.
What is the next step for Jaleen Smith? Is the Pro A a league you could imagine playing another season for added grooming or are you adventurous and try out another country?
Go back home and talk to my agent. I would like to play another season of Pro A. This league is really tough top to bottom. Anyone can be beat on any given day.
What did you appreciate most about the country Germany? How many times did you visit the castle in Heidelberg?
Just the site seeing Germany is really a beautiful country. It’s so amazing here I still can’t believe I’m over here. I only visited the castle once since I have been here, but the sight of Heidelberg below the castle was so awesome.
How does a normal summer day workout plan look like for you on and off the court? Last summer you worked from 9-5 and after worked out for 2 hours on different things for your shooting because that’s the most improvement you needed to make in your game. Do you think you make some refinements in your program this summer?
I’m going to work out 2-3 times a day. I’m going to the weight room in the morning and doing basketball stuff in the afternoon. I’m not having a job this summer. All grind this summer.
Who was the toughest player that you battled on the court this season in the Pro A?
Does practice count ? Haha I would have to say Shy Ely in practice. Nobody in the league compares to him to be honest. He can score from all 3 levels on offense so it’s tough to guard that.
How did you experience the 2018 NCAA March Madness? What was the most spectacular upset in the tournament?
Just looked at the live stats. I couldn’t watch it without paying money to watch. The biggest upset is a team that came from the same conference as my college the AMERICA EAST CONFERENCE #16 UMBC over #1 Virginia.
Deandre Ayton seems lie he could be the #1 NBA draft pick in 2018. But having been in Europe this season you must of seen some highlights of Real Madrid´s 19 year old stand out Luca Doncic who belonged to the best players in the Euroleague. Should a guy like that be the automatic #1 pick just from sheer experience and talent?
It´s really up to the NBA team on what they need I feel like. Ayton can do it all. He’s a rare big man that you can’t really find much. Luca is really good young player playing in the best league other than the NBA. A lot of stuff factors into that but I’ll leave it to the NBA teams to decided.
Lebron James makes amazing passes in every game, but really showcased it in a game this season against the Los Angeles Lakers. He already is like a point guard, but if he played just point guard and concentrated only on playmaking how many assists do you feel would he average per game?
He would probably would average 10-12 a game. He is a really gifted dude. Every game he amazes me with something different it´s crazy.
What was the last movie that you saw? Let me guess Black Panther?
I saw Ready Player One it was a really great movie if your into gaming like I am.
Thanks Jaleen for the chat.