Jerai Grantis a 29 year old 203cm forward from Hyattsville,Maryland playing in his eighth professional season and third with NeptunasKlaipeda (Lithuania-LKL). He comes from a very well known basketballfamily as his dad Harvey played in the NBA for 11 years, uncle Horace is a 4time NBA champion and his brothers Jerami and Jerian are currently playing inthe NBA. He began his basketball career at DeMatha Catholic High School and then played at Clemson (NCAA)from 2007-2011 playing a total of 127 NCAA games and as a senior played 34games averaging 12.4ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.0spg, 2.3bpg, FGP: 57.1%, FT: 71.1%. He began his professionalcareer in 2011 and has played in countries like Australia, Italy, Israel,Latvia and Venezuela. He talked to germanhoops.com before a BasketballChampionsleague Game in Bayreuth, Germany,
Jeraithanks for talking to germanhoops.com Welcome back to Germany. You have playedhere quite a few times in the last years playing against Alba Berlin, Oldenburgand Ludwigsburg. You know off hand what your overall record is?
I couldn´t tell you. I feel it´s about equal.
You have a lifetime 3-3 record against the German teams splitting with each team. Is there a particular series or game that stands out? Perhaps the series against Ludwigsburg two years ago where they beat you advancing to the quarterfinals?
I remember that game. I believe John Patrick was the coach. They had a lot of bodies on the squad. My boy Cliff Hammonds was on that team
Your back in Germany and will play medi Bayreuth. There are some real competitors on the team including ex NBA player Adonis Thomas and shot blocker Hassan Martin. How excited are you to battle them and will it just be another day at the office for you?
Every game is exciting for me. They have a lot of Americans on the team and you need to pay a lot of attention not only to them, but to the home grown players. They are a dangerous team and have good athletic players and shooters.
Your playing your third season with Neptunas Klaipeda (Lithuania-LKL) having reached three finals with the club. Your last and only professional title was the 2014 Latvian league title. Does the chip to win again grow bigger each new season?
Yes it does. I think that no matter what team you play on the goal is always to win otherwise there is no reason to compete. The older you get the smaller the window of opportunity gets.
Neptunas Klaipeda (Lithuania-LKL) is having a great season especially in the LKL standings fighting top teams Zalgiris and Rytas for the title. What has been the secret to the success of the team?
Just fighting each game and we are a very unselfish team where every guyis willing to sacrifice and do the dirty work and little things to besuccessful. We have a good mix of very young players that get a lot of minutesand veterans. We are a scrappy team that takes advantage of our strengths.Sometime it is really easy to fall into the same routine and do it over and over,but we just go with the flow of the game and take advantage of our weapons.
Do you feel extra confidence having Lorenzo Williams as a teammate again since he was with you in 2014 when you won your only title in Latvia?
Absolutely. Zo Williams was the main reason for me coming back here. When they told me that they were going to bring him in, I told them it was a done deal for me. He is one of the most unselfish players that I have ever played with. Just having him on the floor makes my game a lot easier.
There are only two other Americans on the squad with Kyle Weaver and Lorenzo Williams. How important is it having that versatile and very experienced American on the squad with Kyle Weaver? What do you appreciate most about his game?
Kyle can do it all. He can score, but he is just as unselfish as Zo Williams. He is one of those guys that isn´t willing to pass up the open guy for the glory. Off the court he is a great guy. When you incorporate his good character in the game, it makes for so much better chemistry. Even when he doesn´t talks, he leads by example.
Let´s talk about your game. You’re a very athletic forward that is a great rebounder and shot blocker. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit that description?
I don´t know. I honestly couldn´t tell you. I hardly watch NBA games except for my brothers.
You come from a very well known basketball family. Your father Harvey played in the NBA for 11 years, your uncle Horace won 4 NBA with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers and your brothers Jerami and Jerian are in the NBA now. Was there ever a day where basketball wasn´t the number one topic?
We talked about basketball every day. Our mother was very important in our development as she hammered the importance of school into my brothers and I and made basketball just one aspect. We had school, but also enjoyed life and basketball. The most fun we all had with basketball was when we were all at that age where we could play each other.
What have been the best pieces of advice that your dad Harvey and uncle Horace have given to you over the years?
They both gave us so much advice. When I was in high school, I spent a lot of time in California with my uncle Horace and we worked out a lot. My dad was always in my life. He helped me with a lot of things on the court and with every day things off the court.
Your turning 30 this season. Do you feel like you are in your prime now? Your averaging almost 10 rebounds per game. Is this the best Jerai Grant that fans have seen?
I feel like I could of always have played theway I´m playing now. I don´t want to sound prideful, but for me is has alwaysbeen about being aggressive and getting the green light. I have had many greatcoaches, but at the end of the day I have always had to tell myself to go outand do it. I feel like I still have a few more good years left in me.
Last season you played with Orasi Ravenna (Italy-Serie A2) playing 30 games averaging 15.1ppg, 7.9rpg, Blocks-5(1.3bpg), FGP: 63.0%, 3PT: 25.0%, FT: 74.6%. Stat wise it was one of your best seasons. Do you feel like last season has heightened your game this season giving you the results that you have had?
That´s a good question. I feel like my season last year gave me an extra push for this season. Playing in Eastern Europe is a lot different. Stats can be very deceiving. You could average 5/5 here and then go to another country and average double double stats. Many teams don´t understand that basketball is different everywhere and that you can´t always go by the stats.
You had your first tour of duty with Neptunas Klaipeda (Lithuania-LKL) in 2015 playing two seasons with them. You reached three finals with the team. What do you feel was missing for the team getting over the hump and winning a title there?
It was always tough going against a top team like Zalgiris that get to the final every year. It was always an uphill battle from the start. They had all the money and national players on board. You had to get that feeling right away that you could win every game. That is how you have to feel no matter who you go against on the court. That is the first step
You played two seasons there with ex NBA player and ex Duke standout Daniel Ewing. What kind of experience was it having him on board and did you at times feel that NBA swagger in his charisma?
Of course. Daniel Ewing has got it. He always played with that NBA swagger. I told you earlier that playing with a guy like Zo Williams makes the game so much easier. Well it´s the same with Ewing. His play and the opponents defensive attention to him made it so much easier for everyone else on the court. It was so much easier to get that offensive rebound or easy dunk pass. His career speaks for it´s self.
I interviewed him back in 2007 when he played for Valencia and it was his first season in Europe and I remember him entering the arena in Frankfurt with an expensive suit. He was still living in the NBA.
Daniel Ewing is the definition of professionalism.
In your last season with Neptunas Klaipeda (Lithuania-LKL) you played with Larry Drew who had made the big show NBA, but then was in Europe for two seasons. After you were teammates with him, he made it back to the NBA and is continuing his dream now with the Cavs. Did you sense then he had something to prove and his drive to get back to the NBA was huge?
Yes I did. Larry always played with a chip on his shoulder. It didn´t matter if it was words form his pop or not, he always had that edge. That made for a great player as well.
You played two seasons with top Latvian club BK Ventspils from 2013-2015 winning your only professional title. What was so special about the 2014 winning team?
We were all cool with each other. When eachplayer has that feeling that you can win, it makes everything so much easier.We had a great mix of talent and we all believed that we could win. Seeing howwe all stuck together through everything quickly was the first feeling thatsomething special was happening.
In your last season in Latvia you played with Eurocup legend Mire Chapman. What memories do you have of him and where would you rank him in all-time best teammates?
Mire is a great guy and family man. He has great stories to tell. He used to always tell me stories. He is definitely up there on the list of my all-time best teammates.
In your first season in Europe you played with Enel Brindisi (Italy-SerieA) playing 30 games averaging 4.5ppg, 3.4rpg. What do you remember about the season and how did you overcome the adversary?
I don´t like to talk bad about anybody, but the coach there was interesting. He told me from the start that because I was a rookie, I won´t play much. But I wasn´t a rookie. I had played in Australia the season before so technically I wasn´t a rookie, but to him I was. I averaged something like 10 minutes that season. Some games I might play 15 minutes and the next game I wouldn´t play at all. I understood that I was playing behind an ex NBA player like Ced Simmons. This was a situation for me where I couldn´t achieve much growth. So I took the time to work extra hard on my game after practice.
What was your wake up call to being in Europe for the first time where you knew that you were very far away from home?
The first game in Serie A. We played against the #1 team. They later were involved in a cheating scandal. In that game I went up for a dunk and was taken out from behind and no call. This happened a few times. Coach took me out and I remember telling him I´m getting killed out there. A few years later I found out that that team had paid the ref´s to cheat. I learned from that game that as an American coming over, you need to play through a lot of rough stuff. As an American you have to get a feel quickly for the style where you are if you want to make it as a player. There are no excuses. You have to play to win and always have to show everyone that you can play.
You played your rookie season down under with the Sydney Kings (Australia-NBL) averaging 11.9ppg, Reb-4(8.1rpg), 1.1apg, Blocks-3(1.4bpg), FGP: 55.3%, FT: 61.2%. What positives do you remember gaining playing in this league?
Australia was a very positive experience. It has been by far the most beautiful country that I have played in. The whole experience was amazing. The people were cool and my teammates made me feel very comfortable. Going from Australia to Italy was a huge culture shock for me. I went form a place that was so hospitable to a place that wasn´t.
You played at Clemson(NCAA) from 2007-2011 reaching the 2008 ACC final. What was your fondest memory there on the court?
I had a bunch of great moments there. I miss the competitive atmosphere there. One of my fondest moments was senior night when we played against Virginia Tech. They had a strong team then with Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen. We were both bubble teams. Whoever won the game went to the tournament. There was no way that we wanted to lose to them in our gym in front of our families and friends. We went off on them and I had a great game. My whole family was there and my girlfriend at the time was pregnant. It was a great time.
You were able to improve your scoring and rebounding averages each season. How vital were coaches Oliver Purnell and Brad Brownell for you becoming the player that you are today?
Coach Brownell was the guy. He put into my head that I wasn´t only adunker, but opened me up to other aspects in my game. He got me thinking that Ihad other aspects in my game like my mid range and post moves to utilize. CoachPurnell helped me grow as a player in his three years.
How key was having a guy like Cliff Hammonds around as you were a freshman? Was he a guy where you soaked up work ethic and how one should handle themselves on and off the court?
Absolutely. Cliff is a natural born leader. I remember from the first day where I visited Clemson that he was the guy to go to when you needed anything. Any needs we had go to Cliff. I tried to soak up as much as possible from day one until he left.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Devin Booker?
We never really played. I think that if I would of played him back then that I would have took him in a game. I think that he could play in the NBA. He has the athleticism and jump shot. Coach Brownell helped him work a jump shot into his game
Who was the toughest player that you battled in the NCAA that is in the NBA now?
Jim Henson and Tyler Hansbrough
Who would be your starting five of best teammates you ever played with?
That’s tough. I think if we sat here all night long that I still couldn´t come up with that list for you.
If you had to construct your very own NBA Rushmore which 4 heads would you pick?
Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson. I think that there can´t be just one NBA Mount Rushmore, but three of them. There are too many great players.
What is your personal opinion of the never-ending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Jordan or Lebron?
Hakeem Olajuwon was my favorite player. Michael Jordan. He won everything. He is a legend. No matter what you say he is on top. He had it
What was the last movie that you saw?
Thanks Jerai for the chat.