Jaleen Smith Is Thankful That He Chose Alba Berlin Over The NBA As He Finally Won His First Professional Title

Jaleen Smith
 (193-PG-1994, college: UNH) is a 27 year old 193cm guard from Freeport, Texas that is playing his fifth professional season and first with Alba Berlin. He played the last two seasons with the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg averaging 15.2ppg, 5.0rpg, Assists-3 (5.3apg), Steals-2 (1.8spg), FGP: 49.2%, 3PT: 32.7%, FT: 87.5%; and 10.7ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.4apg, 1.6spg, FGP: 53.1%, 3PT: 33.6%, FT: 82,8% the season before. In 2018-2019 he played with the MLP Academics Heidelberg (Germany-ProA) averaging 12,7ppg, 3,9rpg and 2,7apg. In his rookie season 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 germanhoops.com after winning the 2022 easyCredit BBL cup with Alba Berlin

Jaleen thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Congrats on winning your first professional title. Has it sunk in yet?

I don’t think it has yet. It feels really good to win that first title.

How long had you been dreaming of this moment? You reached 3 AEC semi-finals at UNH.

It has been a long time coming. I have always been close. I reached the final with Ludwigsburg two years ago and last year the final. I finally was able to clinch a win.

Alba Berlin beat two very good basketball teams Chemnitz and Crailsheim who two years ago, people would have laughed if you had predicted that they would be in the cup final 4 in 2022. How did the club grow mentally being able to win two games like this within 24 hours?

This gave us a big bout of confidence. Especially since we were without Eriksson, Zoosman and Olinde. All our young guys stepped up this weekend. I believe we are really mentally strong now, and when all those guys come back will be really dangerous. I feel it can be anybody’s night from 1-12. Everybody is ready each night.

Talk a little about how you have seen these two teams grow in the last years heck you saw Chemnitz in the Pro A years ago.

I played against both teams in the Pro A. You have to give a lot of credit to their management for progressing each season. Both have built up their teams and they are playoff teams. Crailsheim have recruited really well the last years. It has been cool to see their development and see how competitive they have been in the BBL:

How dangerous is Chemnitz? Could they make a run in the playoffs?

Chemnitz could for sure make a run. They are most dangerous when they play at home. When that arena is full then it could be one of the toughest to play in the BBL. If they can figure out to win on the road and steal some games, then they will be very tough to beat.

You have seen the development of Isaiah Mike the last two years. I have heard talk of the NBA. How good is he really?

He is super athletic and could be one of the most athletic in the BBL with Justin Simon. Any guy can have a shot for the NBA, but he especially can with his athleticism and scoring abilities.

Was the self-confidence sky high after beating Chemnitz? How did Alba Berlin approach the game with Crailsheim?

We actually approached the final against Crailsheim like any other game. We went in prepared to work hard and play our game. It is always an end game with coach Israel. This cup title was a stepping stone, but were not satisfied yet.

How did your day start this morning? Did you have a breakfast for champions? Did you feel some nervousness coming into the final?

I was more nervous before the Chemnitz game. Chemnitz came into the game having beat Ludwigsburg and Munich by 20 points. I was more nervous to see how they would play against us. It was important that we were able to keep our composure after they went up on us. We always stayed together. The final was just like any other game. We came out and played as a team.

The Hakro Merlins had an incredible first half having a 4 point lead. I guess they had done their home work from the 32 point loss a week ago in Berlin. What adjustments did they seem to make?

I think that they were more rested today. When we played them a week ago, they were more fatigued. They were really motivated today after losing to us by 32 points. Plus it was the title for the cup and their emotions and physicality came out. They showed by playing so well in the first half, that they really wanted to win.

What were the fitting words from coach at half-time? Alba Berlin came out revamped and had the 64-58 advantage after three quarters.

We stayed with the game plan. I think key was that our 5 guy helped especially on Shorts when he drove. I have to give credit to Ben Lammers, Christ Koumadje and Oscar Da Silver. They always helped coming over making it hard for him to finish. He missed some that he usually made. That was due to fatigue because of playing heavy minutes.

You had the 14 point lead 74-60, but the Merlins stormed back going on a 16-5 run to cut your lead down to 79-76 with 1-20 to go. TJ Shorts was unstoppable. You obviously have to respect that man’s game, but seriously how much of a pest is that guy on the floor?

I love to compete against him. In crunch-time, he was ready and wanted to win. He just came up a little short. He is a big time player. It is really hard to guard him. Everytime I play him, I know he will give 100%.

With all respect to Parker Jackson-Cartwright of Bonn, but is TJ Shorts the number one MVP candidate after his performance at the cup weekend?

They are both like the same guy, but Shorts is more seasoned in the BBL after his time in Hamburg and just knows how to get to his spots. TJ is my MVP at the moment.

With you up by three points, you could have been that guy to take over but it was actually Maodo Lo who ended the game with a personal 7-0 run. Did you sense that it was his time to shine?

For sure. We went through our vets Luke Sikma And Lo. They have been in these moments so often in their careers. There was a reason why Lo was MVP.

You and Maodo Lo combined for 76 points in the two games. Was he able to elevate his game to a new level after this weekend?

Yes for sure. I know that he wanted to win as badly as I did. It is tough when both guards combine for so much, but that just shows that we both really wanted to win badly.

Talk a little about how vital Germans Jonas Mattissek and Malte Delow have been. How have you seen them grow?

They became more aggressive knowing that we were low on bodies. They were more aggressive this weekend than in the games before. Their defense is always there, but they give us a boost at both ends of the court. They gave me a big boost just by seeing them hit shots.

Would it be fair to say that German Oscar Da Silva was the unsung hero of the final? He had an incredible game at both ends.

I didn’t even know that he had 14 points tonight. He did all the dirty work and did a great job on Shorts making him take contested shots. He was a big help for us this weekend. He is young and still finding himself, but the cup weekend showed what he can really do. He did all the little things this weekend.

You have your first professional title. How thankful are you that you took the Alba Berlin offer and didn’t try to make an NBA team in training camp?

That is why I came back. Knowing that Alba Berlin has had a big history in winning. I always liked the togetherness of Alba Berlin. I really enjoy playing with these guys and it has been such a blessing winning that first title. I’m thankful that I came to Alba Berlin and didn’t go to NBA training camp not knowing what would happen if I didn’t make it.

You had a superb weekend. What do you feel was your biggest strength on this weekend?

I just wanted to win. I knew it would be a dog fight. I wanted to bring my top game and be the most physical on the court. I was more aggressive today and just wanted to win so badly.

How much has your hunger grown in order to win the next title in a few months?

My hunger is even greater now. I want to win another one. I’m already looking forward to the end of the season. I’m sure we will see FC Bayern Munich again. I will be ready for whoever. I want that second title.

I’m sure you didn’t see the dunk contest because you were sleeping, but it was supposed to have been weak. Are there no good dunkers left like the Vince Carters and Michael Jordan’s?

I have no idea. I though Jaleen Green would do well, but he didn’t. They missed a lot of dunks. It’s weird how it is now. I think that the dunks need to be more creative. It seems like the dunks are all the same now. It is tough being more creative when so many of the dunks have been done before. Maybe they need to change the format.

Thanks Jaleen for the chat.

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