It was only three years ago where Jaleen Smith (6’4”-PG-94, college: UNH) had come off an ok rookie season in Germany with the MLP Academics where he averaged an all right 7.6ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.8apg, FGP: 45.6%, 3PT: 32.1%, FT: 80.3% in the second league. At that moment he was as far away from the first German division easyCredit BBL as it also was for a certain Ishmail Wainwright who had finished at Baylor (NCAA) averaging 5,0ppg as a senior and looked more like a football player then incredible versatile basketball player, but in 2021 is a member of the Toronto Raptors. Sometimes a player’s career can take such a positive turn and it wasn’t any different for Jaleen Smith. I remember giving him my typical post season interview that I give so many Americans in Germany in 2018 after his rookie season and two answers of him really stuck out. Sometimes there is a distinct difference between saying something and actually doing it. In the case of the likeable Texas native, he stuck to his words. His rookie season in Germany wasn’t anything near thrilling and he understood that 100%. He knew then that if he wanted to continue to get better and make waves as a professional basketball player that he couldn’t ever be content. Who knows where he would be today had he averaged 17/5/6 as a rookie in the Pro A in 2018. He surely would be at a high level, but having that less than average season as a rookie made him mentally tough instantly. ‘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’, warned Jaleen Smith in June 2018. After an unmemorable rookie season, he knew that he couldn’t be a part of long summer night cook outs in the dog days of summer in Freeport, Texas, but had to set his priorities straight and be in a place where sweating is the norm. ‘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’, warned Jaleen Smith in June, 2018. Three years later the grind of that summer in 2018 and all the years after have paid off for the ex New Hampshire (NCAA) guard as he reached the easyCredit BBL in his third year as top BBL coach John Patrick believed in his abilities. In his second season, he led Ludwigsburg to the best record in the league and was reward as 2021 BBL MVP. Soon after he had a work out with the Utah Jazz. Then followed a successful stint in the NBA Summer League with the Phoenix Suns and now he is a Euroleague player with Alba Berlin. He has shown so much is possible if you have the right mind set and have the constant work ethic.
Recently Jaleen Smith who will battle his ex teammate Shy Ely of the MLP Academics this season in the easyCredit BBL with Alba Berlin played in the NBA Summer League with the Phoenix Suns. Three years ago he was very impressed by Shy Ely’s game and couldn’t even name a tougher player in the Pro A that season then him. ‘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’, said Jaleen Smith in 2018. Not only will the American see the top players in Europe in the Euroleague, but already got a dose of top young guys recently in the NBA Summer League. It was a dream come true for him to be a part of the Phoenix Suns organization. ‘They treated you like you were on the main team it was really good. The coaches and front office was so helpful plus they wanted everyone on the team to be successful. I just enjoyed being a part of a NBA organization it really felt like a NBA 2k game being there’, joked Jaleen Smith. His experience in Las Vegas at the NBA Summer League was everything he thought it would be and more. He was very happy that people could see him play and see how his game has grown in the last years. He definitely didn’t disappoint anyone in Las Vegas as he held his own against the top new talent averaging 10,0ppg, 3,0rpg and 4,0apg. ‘I played pretty good I thought but it was great playing against high level competition for the summer’, stressed Jaleen Smith. But anyone that knows him, knows that he is never really satisfied as his three pointer is still a work in progress as he shot only 28% from the parking lot. Back in his rookie season he shot 33% and already back then he knew it’s all about being confident and continuing to shoot even if it isn’t falling. Stabilizing his distance shot this season will separate him from being a good Euroleague player to being a great Euroleague player. ‘I think that is the difference maker in my game. I have games where I am a sniper shooter then sometimes I don’t make any shots. So I just have to work on the balance and be consistent’, warned Jaleen Smith.
Not only concentrating on always having his A game ready and making the right play on the floor was on his menu in Las Vegas, but also establishing special new connections to his teammates. He actually had one unique bond to Michael Frazier who had briefly been with the MHP Riesen in 2017-2018 and would reach the big show with the Houston Rockets two years later playing 16 NBA games. ‘Michael told me he was going to go to Ludwigsburg but something happened. We had the MHP conversation just telling him how it was and stuff like that. First off he’s a gym rat. He’s always in the gym working on his game. He’s also a great person to talk to he’s dedicated to the game for sure’, expressed Jaleen Smith. He also remembered battling against certain players and one of those was 218cm center Bol Bol the son of the late Manute Bol who was an NBA icon in the 80’s at 229cm. The big man from Sudan who has a 234 wingspan hasn’t made an NBA impact yet, but after a very potent 2021 NBA Summer League stint might make his break through in his third season. ‘ Bol is really talented. I have never played someone that tall that can do that many things with the basketball. He’s a tough matchup for sure. I expect him to be getting a lot more minutes in the NBA compared to the last 2 years’, said Jaleen Smith. Matching up against other top guards and seeing how his game matched up was also thrilling as he saw close up why Joshua Gray has had NBA stints before. ‘He’s aggressive every time he touches the ball. He’s either scoring for his self or dishing it off to his teammates. He’s more aggressive scoring but I do little bit of everything in my game you can’t really compare it’, commented Jaleen Smith.
The NBA Summer League is a few weeks old, but it was an amazing experience that he will never forget. He also took the vital advice to heart that the Phoenix Suns coaching staff gave him and will apply it as best as possible so he can make new steps in his game with Alba Berlin. ‘They just told me to be more aggressive with my touches. Sometimes I can be bit passive and make the right play but sometimes I just need to go and get a bucket. Thats how the greats make a living in the NBA’, warned Jaleen Smith. A massive part of the whole NBA Summer League is seeing all the important basketball heads and legends walking around. He had little time to be in awe as he was concentrating on his own issues on the court, but it wasn’t rare to bump into guys that he had grown up watching on TV. ‘I saw so many NBA stars just walking around in our hotel. The funny thing is nobody was running up to get an autograph from them so they were walking around the hotel like they were just a regular person’, stated Jaleen Smith. He won’t only have long lasting memories from off the court, but also from his game on the court. Remembering a certain play is only obvious as it isn’t every day that your playing against a team like Cleveland where Lebron James played so many years. ‘Our last game against the Cavs, we ran an inbounds play for me to fake a handoff and the fake worked and then I dished it off to our big man for a finish to be up 1 with a couple of seconds left’, smiled Jaleen Smith.
One has to wonder just how much of an impression he made on the Suns organization as well as other NBA teams. Talented guards are as usual in the world today as it is for a Draymond Green being called the best defender in the NBA now, but still why not keep the NBA dream alive and go to a NBA team training camp? Jaleen Smith chose against that and picked Alba Berlin which is very understandable. ‘I could’ve waited little bit longer for something less than a guarantee contract but I wanted something more secure for me and my family and Europe was the best option. I’m still young and have a chance for it but I want to play EuroLeague and get that experience’, stressed Jaleen Smith. He has joined Alba Berlin which have become Germany’s number one team again surpassing FC Bayern Munich after winning back to back league titles. Already last season Smith was packed with very good talent in Ludwigsburg, but this season has even greater basketball aptitude with teammates. Being able to play with guys like Luke Sikma and Tamar Blatt excite him a lot. ‘I’m excited to play with a player like Sikma he makes everyone better around him just like me so it’s going to be fun playing with him this season. Tamar will defiantly will be the floor general of our team. He can really pass the ball but he can really score the ball also. Well definitely feed off each other this coming year’, added Jaleen Smith. One has to wonder if he can take another step in the BBL with his stats. Probably not as he has so much more scoring talent around him then in Ludwigsburg, plus team play is a vital recipe for success in the organization, plus his minutes should decline which is normal. But he will have an added and new challenge with playing his first Euroleague season. The American who has Jordan, Magic, Shaq and Lebron on his personal NBA Mount Rushmore has that same fire and confidence and is ready to go into his fifth professional season. ‘I’m really excited to be playing Euroleague this coming season. I would watch it on my laptop last year so its crazy I’m going to be playing in it. You’ll see same guy that has been playing in Germany the last 4 years no different player. If you know how I play you will see it’, warned Jaleen Smith. He has achieved so much in the last months and now it’s time to do something he has never done as a professional and that is win a title. He couldn’t have landed in a better place then Alba Berlin to be able to achieve that.