Before the 2021 easyCredit BBL semi-final matchup against FC Bayern Munich, I asked MHP Riesen guard Jaleen Smith (193-PG-94, college: UNH) if he was extra excited about going up against ex NBA player Wade Baldwin. The American was super diplomatic keeping his team Ludwigsburg first, but keeping that dream always in the back of his mind. ‘If I want to reach the Euroleague or NBA, I have to be able to go up against guys like that. But for me it isn’t about my game, but more the Lubo/Munich match up. I’m more focused on that then individual match ups’, warned Jaleen Smith. The basketball journey and rise of Jaleen Smith in the last years has been incredible and as eye popping as the realization that this years NBA finals would be a real breath of fresh air with no Lakers or Warriors, but the Suns and Bucks. Smith who hails from Freeport, Texas has taken on an even bigger upsurgence this year as a few months ago, as his stock as a player was growing was linked with top Euroleague team Maccabi Tel Aviv, a few months later won the easyCredit BBL MVP award and recently had a workout with NBA team Utah Jazz. Basketball and life in general is very very good for Jaleen Smith at the moment. But where will Jaleen Smith wind up next season? Will he make his first experience in the Euroleague or will that have to be put on hold as he possibly gets that much desired NBA opportunity to try to make a team in the next months?
But before the NBA is put into focus, one must rewind back 6-7 weeks ago where Jaleen Smith and the MHP Riesen were battling in the easyCredit BBL playoffs. The MHP Riesen gave everything they had in the playoffs getting by a tough Bamberg team always showing their fighting qualities and consistent team play. But in the semi-finals, they faced a very tough FC Bayern Munich team that was seeking revenge for their playoff loss to Ludwigsburg last season and won 3-1. In the end FC Bayern Munich wore down Ludwigsburg and just executed better in crunch time in game three and four. But the MHP Riesen still played an amazing season winning the regular season title with a 30-4 record, but for a competitor like Jaleen Smith digesting the playoff loss was difficult. He definitely hasn’t forgotten the series and has that amazing focus to always get better. ‘The loss hit me for sure but I’m refocused and recharged and I’m working on stuff that would’ve helped for that series’, warned Jaleen Smith. It is no secret that with his rising play in the last year and MVP title, that he would have to end his time in Ludwigsburg, but the memories there will last a lifetime. ‘I have nothing but love for the city. Germany in general helped me as a player but also as a person. Just meeting all the fans is so cool I’ll never forget my time in LUBU. Just my confidence in myself really just picked up the more I played in the system. The team really helped show my game that I haven’t played in a while’, stressed Jaleen Smith.
His two years with the organization MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg could be the most important in his career as he is ready for a new challenge elsewhere and in a higher league. In Ludwigsburg, he was surrounded by amazing players who were instrumental in allowing him to shine and raise his game. Even when he did ball with so many talented players, when asked which player had the biggest impact on his two years in Ludwigsburg, he didn’t have to think long. ‘I would have to say Marcos Knight. Just seeing what he did in the bubble last summer was crazy. He plays so hard and 4 double-doubles in a row as a guard that’s tough to do at this level’, remembered Jaleen Smith. Even if he was teammates with many incredible veterans like Tremmel Darden who is reaching 40 or Jamel Mclean, he also was able to be that mentor type of guard for the Patrick brothers or Lukas Herzog. He also witnessed the play of ex Stanford (NCAA) standout Oscar Da Silva who latched on a few months in Ludwigsburg to help raise his 2021 NBA Draft stock. He had the fitting words of advice for him before he left. ‘He can just keep working hard and out working the next guy because it’s always someone to climb over in this profession. Also to keep being him because he is a great guy’, stated Jaleen Smith.
Of course his game wouldn’t have taken that growth in the last two years without the coaching staff of John Patrick, David Mccray and Joey King. One guy who probably has lifelong digs on any wish is assistant coach Joey King. King and Smith first crossed paths during Smith’s NCAA gig at New Hampshire. John Patrick brought King to Ludwigsburg and in 2019 King was instrumental in helping the 2021 BBL MVP land in Ludwigsburg. Smith and King will probably forever have a very special relationship. ‘That’s my guy now I know I can call him at anytime and he’ll keep it real with me. He’s really the person that got my foot in the door to come to LUBU’, warned Jaleen Smith. Obviously He also is very very blessed and thankful that he got the ultimate freedom from head coach John Patrick on the court. He knew quickly exactly how he would blossom in Patrick’s system. ‘He has a vision on how he sees his teams and if you don’t fit that mold he’s not afraid of letting you go. So whenever you do come in, you just have to come and play hard because that covers up all your mistakes with him. He loves guys that just get after it. He loves guys that are hungry’, stressed Jaleen Smith. With all that has happened I his career, he remains super humble especially when it comes to other competitive players like ex MBC guard Quinto Hooker who will be the new point guard this season in Ludwigsburg. ‘Quinton can really score the ball. He’s a big time scorer that can also pass the ball and that’s perfect for JPs offense. I wouldn’t say follow he is following in my footsteps but if he just plays the way he plays and he’ll be great even better than when I was in LUBU’, expressed Jaleen Smith. Head coach John Patrick has developed so many great players in the last years and surely will have a lot of joy with Quinton Hooker, but also never forget a player like Jaleen Smith. ‘Jaleen checks all the boxes for what you want in a player. He loves the game, he is coachable, he has an extremely high basketball IQ, he is talented, and he works his butt off every day to try and get better. He deserves every bit of success that he gets. He is a humble and very likable person in addition to being a top player’, stressed John Patrick.
The off season is always such an exciting time for players wanting to make the next step. For example where will a guy like Bonzie Colson go?. After not getting a chance with the Milwaukee Bucks, the ex Notre Dame (NCAA) great took a step back last season and went to France to Strasburg and prompt won the league MVP. With a season like that, Euroleague teams have to be knocking at his door and he should be back on the radar of NBA teams. Another player that made the next step is Kameron Taylor. This guy who helped lead the Hamburg Towers to their first ever playoff appearance has to be the biggest Cinderella story ever that played in Germany. In a span of three seasons, he went from the German third division Pro B and now landed in the Euroleague with Maccabi Tel Aviv. A few months ago there were rumors that Smith was on their radar. Of course Euroleague teams are always deep and he could still land there. Just seeing Kameron Taylor on the roster and being a guy he battled the last two seasons made him smile about his continued rapid rise up the basketball ladder. ‘You love to see guys that work their way up through hard work. Kam is the perfect example of keep your head down and where ever you go just play hard. Because that’ll get you paid’, commented Jaleen Smith.
The American who last watched the classic movie Space Jam is definitely keeping his options open and didn’t sign in Europe anywhere yet. Being able to showcase his vast basketball skills for NBA team Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City recently was a good reason to still be free on the transfer market. Was he in awe of the whole setting or was he professional and not let the NBA reality get to his nerves? . I was a little of both just knowing I’m really on the doorstep of making my dreams a reality. The experience was nice. We had like a mini NBA experience and for me being the first time in a NBA Facility was amazing’, warned Jaleen Smith. He had no problem holding his own as the 10 guys invited were all Champions League level players with the same amount of skill. He definitely left a lasting impression on the Utah Jazz coaching staff. ‘They loved my game and the story I have. They told me just to work on my game which is always good’, said Jaleen Smith. With having his small breath of NBA air with the Utah Jazz, will there be an additional NBA opportunity with the Jazz like a Summer League invitation? ‘We’ll have to see these next couple of weeks how everything goes. After the workout I’m excited about how everything is going to go down’, added Jaleen Smith. The next weeks will be very thrilling as he will learn eventually for what organization he will compete for. He is in absolutely the best hands with his agent Teddy Archer who will get him to the next great basketball destination. ‘I’m VERY CONFIDENT my agent Teddy Archer will put me in the best possible position to succeed and I firmly believe it. Even when I don’t believe in myself at times. He’s throwing all his chips on me and that’s great to hear from your agent. This gives you a sense of relaxation or no worries’, warned Jaleen Smith
As he waits what the future has in store for him, he will continue to grind in the lab during the swelting summer in Texas, but at the same time enjoy the 2021 NBA finals during normal hours something that everyone else overseas have to set their alarm clocks for in the middle of the night. One thing that he didn´t even know was that one of John Patrick´s ex players Charles Lee is an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks. Having and developing guys further with a high IQ only makes it more apparent that they can have a future in coaching later on down the line. “To be honest I haven’t even looked down the line for that with some of my teammates. All my teammates I’ve played with have a high IQ for the game so I would say any one of them could be a coach in future”, stressed Jaleen Smith. The guy that most are really crossing their fingers to win the 2021 NBA title is ex Wake Forest(NCAA) great Chris Paul. This guy gets an incredible amount of respect from every player I have asked the last months about where he stands in the greatest point guard of all-time and it isn´t any different for Jaleen Smith who stated this at the end of April 2021. “He is in the top 5. You saw what he did with the Suns. Before he came they were missing a true point guard and he came in and helped them become better. He is a winner“, stressed Jaleen Smith. At that time, Chris Paul was still far away from an NBA ring, but is even closer now. It is more than obvious how much his heart is with Chris Paul finally getting that NBA chip. He also knows that he can also follow his game closely to get some new nuisances for his game. “I want CP3 to win him a title. He’s put so much into the game for him not to be crowned a champion. I also want him to win the Finals MVP. I’ve been studying him for a while but now he’s in the FINALS so I’ll be looking paying close attention to him now more than ever”, warned Jaleen Smith. He also will be watching Bucks guard Jru Holiday closely as he battles Chris Paul on every possession. “Jrue is a 2 way kind of guy. I love his game and he’s a really good player. I think he matches up well with CP3 really well”, said Jaleen Smith. He also has a firm grip on which team is going all the way this season. “I will say Phoenix in 6 for sure. I think Chris Paul’s leadership will carry them. Giannis will be back but this year is a learning experience for him and he’ll get him a ring for sure”, warned Jaleen Smith. If Smith signs with a team overseas before that NBA team is crowned or if he will hang around longer in the States and play NBA Summer League is still up in the stars, but one thing is for sure this will be his busiest summer as a professional player.