One of the great games you can play when checking out new players that come to Germany to play their first professional season is seeing where they went to school and how many players from that NCAA or NCAA 2 or NAIA school have ever laced up their sneakers on German ground. With energetic and his “I´m all over the court mentality like Draymond Green, Stephon Jelks played at the highest level in the last years battling strong NCAA schools like Seton Hall, Memphis or a Florida with Mercer. Mercer which is located in Macon, Georgia only played in three NCAA tournaments in 1981, 1985 and 2014 and it´s most well known alumnist that reached the NBA is Sam Mitchell who enjoyed a solid 13 year career playing mostly with the Minnesota Timberwolves and seeing a young Kevin Garnett break out in 1995. In terms of guys that have played in Germany, the list is short with guys like Andrew Brown who played a total of 3 games in 2008 averaging 18,7ppg with the P4two Ballers Osnabrueck, Sidiki Straub who played 28 games with SC Rist Wedel (ProB) averaging 7.7ppg, 5.7rpg, Issac Gordon who also played with SC Rist Wedel (Germany-ProB) in 2015-2016 averaging 12.9ppg, 5.0rpg, 3.8apg, Travis Smith who actually played two seasons in Germany for three teams leaving his mark with RSV Eintracht Stahnsdorf (Germany-ProB) averaging 17.6ppg and averaging 13,1ppg with the Take-Off Wuerzburg Blue Baskets (Germany-ProB) and 23 year old German Niklas Ney is still active having played with the MLP Academics Heidelberg the last years and now will suit up for the Tigers Tuebingen. Last season Jelk´s ex teammate Jestin Lewis found new experiences in the Pro B with Giessen averaging 13.2ppg, 1.5rpg, 3.3apg, 1.8spg, FGP: 53.3%, 3PT: 31.9%, FT: 63.2%. Now Jelks is the newest Mercer addition to the Pro A and has every opportunity to not only to continue the fine Mercer tradition of players leaving their mark in Germany as well as possibly being the best Mercer player to have ever played in Germany. When Lewis was a senior at Mercer, Jelks was a real young buck and a sophomore and despite having a strong season himself was able to soak up the strong Lewis stats as he averaged 14.0ppg, 3.6rpg, 1.8apg, 1.5spg, FGP: 53.9%, 3PT: 36.2%, FT: 76.8%. Lewis isn´t in Germany this season as he made his mark last season an dnow it´s time for Jelks to make his mark. There isn´t a second Draymond Green with the MLP Academics Heidelberg, but Stephon Jelks who is the team´s Mr everything and ready to leave his mark in the Pro A this season.
Stephon Jelks who lists Jaron Blossomgame as his toughest cover in the NCAA is a 23 year old 198cm forward that was born in Valdosta, Georgia, and grew up in Marietta and played for North Cobb Christian High School.There he was a four-time All-Region first team selection and two-time All-State performer. In his senior year he averaged 14,1ppg, and registered 25 double figure scoring games. He also demonstrated that he can excel at another sport as he also played with the football team. In 2014, he moved to Mercer and as a freshman played 30 games averaging 5.3ppg, 3.4rpg, FGP: 55.1%, 3PT: 44.4%, FT: 67.6%. He scored in double figures in six games and scored 14 points against Wofford and E Tennessee State. He led the team in field goal percentage at 52% and was named to the SoCon All-Freshmen Team. He has his best scoring and rebound season as a sophomore playing 34 games averaging 11.7ppg, 8.4rpg, 1.9apg, FGP: 48.6%, 3PT: 35.6%, FT: 78.5%. He scored in double figures in 22 games and was a rebound monster getting 10 double doubles. His rebounding made a huge jump during the season and would carry on through out the rest of his career. He has a simple solution for his sudden rise. “I take a lot of pride in rebounding. It’s just something that I feel like is the best part of my game. I just have a knack for the ball when it’s coming off the rim. And nothing special really happened, I just started getting 8 or 9 rebounds in a couple of games and I’d always just try to beat that number the next game”, stressed Stephon Jelks. He best games included a 24/17 explosion against Citadel as well as a 21/12 effort against Kenneshaw State and 20/15 effort against Arkansas. Other highlights included leading the SoCon in rebounding and getting 10 rebounds or more 13 times. In his junior season he played 32 games averaging 7.3ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 47.3%, 3PT: 28.6%, FT: 80.3%. He scored in double figures in eight games and had two double doubles. His best scoring games were against Samford with 17 points and 15 points against Georgia South. Other highlights was leading the team in rebounding and being second in blocks with 15. In his senior year he played 33 games averaging 9.4ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.7apg, FGP: 57.1%, 3PT: 45.7%, FT: 77.6%. He scored in double figures 15 times and had 7 double doubles. His best scoring games occurred against La Salle with 22 points, 17 points against Drexel and Memphis and 16 points against Wofford.
At Mercer the American reached two CBI tournament quarterfinals and one SoCon semi final and despite not winning any hardware, he did have long lasting memories of his basketball experience there. “I had a lot of fond moments, too many to mention. I would say my most fondest moment was my sophomore year when we played and beat Arkansas on the road. That was one of my favorite games because of the atmosphere and energy of the game. And we battled and pulled it out at the end”, stated Stephon Jelks. He also remembered his 24/17 explosion against Citadel, but that wasn´t his most memorable game at Mercer. “Stat wise yes, but like I mentioned earlier, I feel that my best game in my college career was against Arkansas”, added Stephon Jelks. Even though his best season in scoring and rebounding was his sophomore season, he did see himself make huge strides in his two last seasons. “I’ve improved on a lot over these past two years. My main improvement was being able to shoot off of the closeout. I was a catch and shoot type player and people would start running me off the line, so just developing that catch and make a play off the dribble has made me more of a threat on the court”, warned Stephon Jelks. Even with consistent hard work in the gym and on the court, he couldn´t of had all the success there and now as a professional if he hadn´t taken the guidance of his coach Bob Hoffman to heart. “Coach Hoffman prepared me in the way of knowing the details about the game. Communication being a thing he was very high on. And having to do it for 4 years made it a habit but it was a great habit because coaches love a guy who can communicate while on the court”, added Stephon Jelks.
The American who lists his five best teammates of all-time as Jestin Lewis Desmond Ringer Jibri Bryan Demetre Rivers and Jordan Strawberry (I loved all my teammates though, I’d name them all if you’d allow me too) began his professional rookie career in 2018 with UU-Korihait Uusikaupunki (Finland-Korisliiga) playing 33 games averaging 11.7ppg, Reb-5(8.2rpg), 1.7apg, 1.3spg, FGP: 48.1%, 3PT: 36.1%, FT: 81.3% He had no problem adjusting to the play on the court in Finland, but he did miss one important component that he remembered having at NCAA games. “My wakeup call was my first game. Usually I’d have my mom at all my games at Mercer but that being my first pro game and her being in the states, it was a wake up call that I was a long way from home but knew my purpose for being that far away”, added Stephon Jelks. He scored in double figures in 20 of 33 games and his best scoring games included a 31 point explosion against Pyrinto shooting 10/11 from the field and a 24/12 effort against KTP Basket. Often when abroad an American will be the lone American and if lucky at times have another one, but in the case of Jelks, he had three others that made the whole rookie process easier especially with teammate Bryan Coleman. “He was a great teammate that I asked a lot of questions about different situations I wasn’t accustomed to. Mario Edwards and Brandon Conley definitely helped with the adjustments too. We competed every day in practice and just made each other better”, expressed Stephon Jelks.
Now the American who lists his own personal NBA Rushmore with legends Kobe Bryant, Dirk, Carmelo Anthony, and Allen Iverson is prepared for the next challenge in his professional basketball career and the task of developing further. He had a fruitful summer of working out hard at home as well as spending quality time with family and friends and even bumped into Boston Celtic Jalen Brown at a Pro Am in Atlanta who hails from his hometown His main goal this year is to be better than he was as a rookie and he tweaked a few things from his game in preparation for the German Pro A. He was already lucky having the luxury of meeting new teammates Grant Teichmann and Adam Eberhard on the flight to Germany thus already getting some early off the court chemistry flowing. “Grant and Adam are great guys. We clicked from the moment we all met each other. Talked about just wanting to be on the court and help the team win so we are all on the same page when it comes to this season”, said Stephon Jelks. It wasn´t a hard task for the American to make the decision with signing with ambitious organization MLP Academics Heidelberg. “I honestly didn’t have much knowledge of Germany basketball other than old teammates like Jestin Lewis playing in it. Kelvin Martin actually played on Academics in 2015 and he told me a little about it when I made my decision. The GM Matthias called me and we talked for like 15 minutes and his vision for the team and what he saw in my abilities made everything work out. I just felt that being in Pro A Germany can open up a lot of doors for me, on top of it being a respected team in the league who is about winning and playing team ball”, commented Stephon Jelks. Life of a professional player isn´t only about what happens on the court, but there is enough down time where a player can explore the country better and get a grip on the culture and people. The American didn´t know it at first, but now knows that he is living in one of Germany´s prettiest cities. “Heidelberg is a very beautiful city. At first I didn’t think it would be anything special but the buildings and structures of the city is nice”, warned Stephon Jelks.
After a very strong rookie season in Finland, he now is in Germany with a lot of self confidence thanks to a solid rookie season and will display his versatile game in the Pro A There will be quite many scoring options on the team this season. But despite the abundance of talent on the team, he is more than confident that he will become an impact player in the Pro A. “I´m very confident in my abilities as a player. If it’s to score then I will score, if it´s to rebound and play defense, then I will do that. I just want to have an impact on my team in a positive way so we can get a lot of W’s and compete for a championship”, warned Stephon Jelks. The American demonstrated at Mercer in his last three years and in Finland that he is a very potent rebounder and that is a big reason why the MLP Academics hauled him in for his services so the team rebounding will improve this season. But he is so much more than just an athletic rebounder. “I can shoot the 3 ball pretty well, I can defend multiple positions, I bring a lot of energy to my team which rubs off on everyone. German basketball fans are just going to see a grind hard hooper from the states who wants to win”, smiled Stephon Jelks. Even though his vital rebounding abilities will be vital for the success of the team, he will also be able to add another dimension to the game with another component of his versatile player. “A hidden strength in my game I’d say is being able to bring the ball up the court. A lot of the time I usually just give the ball off to the point guard but if needed too, I can grab a rebound and push the ball up the court to apply pressure on the defense”, warned Stephon Jelks. Oh and then there was something about Draymond Green in the title. Not only others have noticed that Draymond Green beast in him, but he himself also. “I’d compare my game to Draymond Green. I know a lot of people don’t like Draymond but he is a competitor that plays defense,rebounds, and does whatever it takes for his team to win. Definitely correlates to my game”, stressed Stephon Jelks. As long as the MLP Academics are winning this season, no one will have any problems with his fascination of Draymond Green. Nobody will see a second Draymond Green in Heidelberg, because there is only one, but people will witness Stephon Jelks “Mr Everything” for the MLP Academics Heidelberg doing everything possible on the court so his team can be successful.