Jamel Morris (193-G-1992, college: Fairmont St.) is a 29 year old 193cm guard from Gahanna, Ohio playing his sixth professional season and first in Germany with the SYNTAINICS MBC Weissenfels (Germany-BBL). He has garnered a lot of experience overseas having played in Italy, Croatia, Poland and France. He also played a season in the G-League with the .Grand Rapids Drive. He began his basketball career with Gahanna Christian Academy. He then played at Glenville State College (NCAA2) from 2011-2013 and then moved to Fairmont State University and played two seasons averaging 17.0ppg, 3.8rpg, 2.1apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 45.9%, 3PT: 38.3%, FT: 83.5% and as a senior averaged 13.8ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 43.2%, 3PT: 39.1%, FT: 74.2%. He spoke to germanhoops.com about basketball.
Jamel thanks for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you at the moment?
I am currently in the US for the Fiba break. An overseas year is a long 10 months so I’m thankful our coach gave us a few days to go home and see our families and rest and refresh our minds. In regards to life, Life is good at the moment, I can’t complain very much! Blessed to be able to be healthy and playing so far this season.
Before we talk about basketball, let me ask you about how you have experienced Covid. You were all over the place in the last two years being in Croatia, Poland, France and Germany. What was the most challenging thing that you had to deal with on and off the court?
Covid actually was not that bad in Poland for us. We didn’t have many covid cases on our team per say and we didn’t have to miss any games. But we had a really successful year finishing 2nd in the regular season and making the final 4. When I was in Croatia we had to end our season early my second year there. But Croatia was very challenging for me because I tore my ACL my first year there when I was playing really well, and then my second year it was up and down but it took me a while to get going and I started to feel like I was back to myself second half of the year but then COVID ended the season. Lastly, France was an experience I was grateful for, we got tested every week for covid which was interesting but it was my first time in a top league in Europe one of the best and I enjoyed it very much. Played with and against some really good players.
With everything that you witnessed off the court, how do you feel has Covid made you stronger as a man?
I would say it definitely made me more aware of my health. Like the little things such as washing my hands after almost everything, and also it kept me in the house more which made me discover more about myself as a person.
Your playing your first season in Germany with MBC. You played in some big cities for teams over the years like Split and Warshaw, but Weissenfels is like a village. Has the culture shock been big?
I would say yes in some ways but hasn’t really affected me as much. I went to a university my first two years in a village smaller than Weissenfels so It just brought me back to those days honestly. But it is definitely most different than Split and Warsaw The older I get the less I feel the urge to go out and do a lot of things, so I stay in my apartment most days, and if I want to get out of the house and explore a little bit I will go to Leipzig.
It’s been a tough season for MBC. How tough has it been for you to lose so much despite putting up very good stats?
Yes it’s been a tough season, some up and downs. But we try to come and get better every week in practice. We have the pieces, it’s just putting it all together. I have put up some solid stats but I would like to also put wins together with that. Despite these two losses after we were in quarantine we started to figure it out a little bit. Losing like this is a first for me but I look at it as a challenge. I love my teammates and I’m glad to be here because it is teaching me a lot as a basketball player.
How vital was the pick up of American Reggie Upshaw?. He helped in getting two wins. What have you appreciated most about his game?
Reggie is a really good player. When I found out that we were signing him I was happy because I knew immediately he would help. He’s versatile. He can shoot, he can pass, he can create, he can defend, he has a high IQ. When he came in the first practice I could already tell how much he would and will continue to help. I actually think we can and will utilize him more because he can do many things. I would definitely say what I appreciated most from his game is his IQ and selflessness on the court.
How have you experienced the development of German Kostja Mushidi? He was a huge German talent and let all the NBA buzz almost ruin his career. He seems to be on a good way.
Kostja is also very talented. He can do a lot of things. He has good size for his position. I’ve seen growth in him this year already more so mentally rather than on the court and for him that’s the biggest thing. I think he fell victim to what many kids his age would have. Being young and having NBA buzz is not easy to handle and it did to him what it would have or does to a lot to guys his age at the time. But I think he’s handling it well and I see him growing everyday. He’s a great person, a great locker room guy and he’s willing to listen. I have a lot of confidence in him.
Let’s talk about your game. You’re a 193cm guard. If you had to compare your game to an NBA player who would best fit the description?
That’s a tough one honestly. I’ve been compared to many players. Especially slower guards that aren’t as athletic or explosive. But I would say closer to a Klay Thompson or a CJ McCollum for the simple fact of being able to shoot the ball well and play with the ball as an off guard.
You are a flat out very good scorer. What other attributes does your game compose?
I would actually like to say my ability to pass the ball is underrated. I have a high IQ and am able to see the floor well. My scoring ability opens up my ability to pass the ball and create for others.
You have always been a very good outside shooter. To what level do you still want to bring your shot? Do you feel like you could consistently shoot 40%?
I feel I can shoot the ball at any level at a good percentage. Whether that be NBA, Euroleague, Champions League, Eurocup etc. I’m confident in my ability to shoot the ball and I’ve done it at every level I have been at so far. So yes I feel I can shoot 40% at any level of basketball consistently.
On what area’s of your game are you working on most now so that you can continue to climb the basketball ladder
My ability to be more patient at times and not always feeling like I have to make THE play. But most importantly to be intense on the defensive side of the ball consistently and not just sometimes. Those are the two most important areas I have focused in on and tried to get better at.
Last Season you split time with Legia Warszawa (Poland-EBL) averaging 17.4ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.9apg, 2FGP: 49.0%, 3FGP: 39.8%, FT: 84.3%, then moved to Entente Orleans 45 (France-Jeep ELITE ProA) averaging 7.9ppg, 1.9rpg, FGP: 53.8%, 3PT: 36.8%, FT: 73.7%. What kind of an experience was it playing in two very good leagues. What were the biggest challenges last season?
I would say they were both adjustments for me. Coming to Poland I was coming from a mediocre season in Split. Coach Kaminski actually offered me to come to play for him two years prior to that when he was in Ostrow Slam Stal. I enjoyed playing in Poland, it was good competition with some very good players in it. I was able to have the ball in my hand and be myself but in the beginning I had to take a backseat to two good players and when they left I had more of a role to takeover and be that guy which I adjusted to well. But I would say I had more of a challenge when I went to France. Playing in Orleans was an adjustment for me because the level was very good. I had a chance for the first time in my career to compete against Euroleague, Champions league, and Eurocup teams. I started off well actually. But a player came back from injury who had been there already and my playing time became less and I would say that was the biggest challenge for me. Being able to stay positive despite not playing as much, but we were successful making the playoffs and I had some really good guys around me. My teammates there were supportive on and off the court which I appreciate.
In the playoffs in Poland you beat team King by 94 points. How can one imagine that lop sided win of 137-43?
It was an unfortunate event for them. I believe they had caught covid and were in quarantine and they had to send what they had and that happened to be all young guys. So we basically played a team full of juniors. But it was the last regular season game not the playoffs.
In France you were teammates with guard Paris Lee who now is in the Euroleague with Monaco. When you watch his game, how far away do you seriously feel you are from that kind of level?
Paris is a very good player. Very selfless, passes the ball well, can score, can defend, he more than deserves to be where he is and I’m happy to see him there doing well. But to answer your question I believe It depends on the situation. I believe I am not far, I feel I can contribute to teams at the Euroleague level, I have the skill and ability. But I know it’s all about timing, and the process, and lord willing I will get there when I am supposed to. Everything falls into place like it’s supposed to, so Until then I’m going to continue to better myself everyday and take it one step at a time.
You played two seasons in Croatia with Split. What kind of experience was it playing for such a well known organization? The first season was short, but everything seemed to pick up in your second season.
You know I didn’t know how historical they were until I got there. You don’t hear about it much and then you arrive there and you see that guys like Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja, perasovic and you see that they were three time Euroleague Champions. The fans hold you to that standard so it can be difficult at times when you lose but they are passionate. My first year was cut short because I tore my ACL but my second year was solid because I was coming off surgery and I didn’t feel normal again until second half of the season. I enjoyed my time there and Split always holds a special place in my heart.
In your second professional season you played with the Grand Rapids Drive (NBA G-League) playing 51 games averaging 12.6ppg, 2.7rpg, 2.0apg, FGP: 42.2%, 3PT: 39.6%, FT: 81.3%. You had to do a try out, and then pass the test in training camp. How fulfilling was this season for you?
Amazing experience. Something I will never forget. I don’t think if you told me before that year started it would go out like that I would never have believed it. Being and playing in the G-League jump started and caturpaulted my career because I had nothing before that. Being able to compete and play with guys that I watched growing up or just watched on ESPN because they were at big time schools was a blessing. Truly grateful for that year and experience.
Often guys are on G-League teams to fill the roster. You really had some very good games. What do you believe did you have to do to get a possible NBA call up? Would 7-8 minutes more on average and 5-6 points been your ticket?
I honestly feel when it comes to being called up to the NBA it’s all about timing and opportunity. The NBA is a business. Maybe if I averaged more minutes and points, but it’s never certain. I believe since I burst out of the scene and came out of nowhere basically, that teams wanted to see me play an extra year in the G-League just to be certain. I think if I played the same and averaged the same amount of points and shot the same percentages as I did for a second year then I would have received a call up. It’s not even about points most of the time, I think you just have to be a what team needs at the time. Whether that be a 3 and D wing player, a great defender or a great shooter, just to give a few examples.
What was the best example that you saw in the G-League where you saw that the NBA will always be a business first before anything else?
I think there are many instances where I saw that the NBA was a business. I would say the first time I experienced it was when at a time I was playing very well and playing a lot of minutes, and a player for the Detroit Pistons who wasn’t playing very much got assigned down to our team in Grand Rapids and I went from playing 28-30 minutes a game to playing no more than 10 minutes for a stretch of games. But knowing that I just had to be professional and accept it and wait for my opportunity to come again.
In the 106-100 win over Delaware you exploded for 37 points and was the best man on the floor with loads of ex NBA guys on the floor. Do you feel like your game was noticed after that performance?
I definitely feel that I gained more confidence about myself after that game. It opened my eyes to myself and realized that I could compete on that level
You were teammates briefly with NBA veteran Dwight Buycks. What kind of an experience was having him as a teammate. Did he take you a bit under your wing?
Dwight was a great teammate. A guy with his experience of playing in the NBA and other high levels, he didn’t carry himself with any type of arrogance. He was always laughing, joking and vibing with us. He’s probably one of the most offensively talented players I’ve ever played with honestly. I wouldn’t say he took me under his wing but he definitely was a positive veteran for me that was happy for me when he started to see me rise my level of play. We still talk till this day sometimes.
You played your rookie season with Ste.Mar ’90 Civitavecchia (Italy-Serie C Gold). What do you remember being your wake up call to being overseas where you knew that you were very far away from home?
I would say my first wake up call being overseas was the feeling of nobody really speaking English. Everywhere you go you hear a different language being spoken. When you go to the store, when you go to restaurants, asking for directions, etc. It was definitely tough but I was so young and open to everything at that time it didn’t really bother me. I enjoyed every moment just being in another country outside of the U.S.
You played two seasons at Glenville State College (NCAA2) averaging 19.4ppg, 3.7rpg, 3.2apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 42.5%, 3PT: 35.1%, FT: 82.3% in your second season. Why did you choose to leave after two years?
When I left Glenville it wasn’t an easy decision at all. All my friends and relationships I built there over the two years I was there were strong, so leaving was tough and my friends weren’t really happy about it of course. But I chose to leave to find better opportunities for myself to possibly help my career for after college.
You then finished at Fairmont State University (NCAA2) averaging 17.0ppg, 3.8rpg, 2.1apg, 1.2spg, FGP: 45.9%, 3PT: 38.3%, FT: 83.5% and as a senior averaged 13.8ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.8apg, FGP: 43.2%, 3PT: 39.1%, FT: 74.2%. How do you feel did your game grow in the two years there?
When I transferred to Fairmont I was able to for first time play with a group of guys where I wasn’t necessarily the best player at the time. It was a different level of talent and athleticism. I was now playing for a coach in Jerrod Calhoun who had been coaching under the Hall of Fame coach Bob Huggins at West Virginia, the facilities and atmosphere was just different so it forced me to adapt. But being there I just grew mentally and physically, I put on more weight, I started to study the game more, I trained more than I ever did before. I adapted to being more than just a shooter. I had a coach in Joe Mazzulla who also came from Glenville, who continued to help build and mold my game and I think it’s stayed with me till this day.
How much of a role model has Fairmont player Thad Mcfadden been for you overseas? He is a guy that had to climb the basketball ladder step by step and has become a top guard in Europe.
Thad is somebody I look up to in this game because he’s shown that it can be possible. You don’t see many guys come from the Division 2 level especially from the same university, get to the level where he is now. He also has taken a path where he didn’t start off at the highest levels in Europe but continued to work his way up to ACB Spain which is inspiring. It’s amazing to see three guys from Fairmont State (me, Thomas Wimbush and Thad) to be where we are in Europe today.
How did Jerrod Calhoun groom and prepare you best for a professional career?
Coach Calhoun’s ‘in your face’ and intense style of coaching prepared me best for the professional level. He’s a guy that demands your best at all times. At times it was frustrating because he was always on your case but he brought the best out of guys. That style of coaching carries over to Europe especially when playing for coaches from certain areas of Europe. So that style of coaching doesn’t really bother me because I am so used to it from playing under Coach Calhoun. It brings out the competitive nature in a player. It requires a lot of mental toughness and discipline.
Who won a one on one in practice you or Matt Bingaya?
I don’t believe we played many one on one games but when we did, I won some and he would win some, Matt was super talented.
Who was the toughest player that you ever battled that reached the NBA?
I don’t know who I would say personally as an individual battle was the toughest but from who I played against just in general throughout a game, I would say either Quin Cook or Christian Wood.
Please name your five best teammates of all-time?
This is tough one, Ive had some really good teammates. I would say Speedy Smith, Landry Nnoko, Thomas Wimbush, Mike Cobbins, Dwight Buycks
Please list your personal NBA Mount Rushmore?
Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Kareem and Steph Curry
What is your personal opinion of the neverending debate of who is the greatest of all-time Jordan or Lebron?
For me its Lebron, there is no questioning that either and I can argue that until I am blue in the face haha
Did you see the sequel to the classic Coming To America? Shouldn’t they have left it alone?
I have seen the original but I have not seen the sequel to it. There are some films and shows that should be left alone as is and Coming to America is one of them
Thanks Jamel for the chat.