Jaleen Smith (190-SG-1994, college: UNH) is a 27 year old 193cm guard from Freeport, Texas that is playing his sixth professional season and second with Alba Berlin averaging 10.9ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.5apg, FGP: 48.9%, 3PT: 38.7%, FT: 90.8%; Euroleague: 33 games: 8.3ppg, 2.2rpg, 2.3apg, FGP: 41.2%, 3PT: 31.7%, FT-2(93.3%). He played 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 about his experience playing at the 2022 Euro with Croatia.
Thanks Jaleen for talking to germanhoops.com. Where are you at the moment and how is basketball life treating you?
I’m still in Berlin about to have lunch with an old teammate from Heidelberg. Then we will watch the two quarterfinal games including Germany-Greece in the arena. I have a player pass that I can use.
The 2022 Euro is over for Croatia and you after losing to the Finland. How big was the disappointment for you personally going out in the round of 16?
To be honest I don’t know really what a disappointment is at the Euro? I thought that we played the best basketball that we could play. Markkanen got the best of us. It was a tough loss against Finland. I thought it was a good start for me playing on a big stage like the Euro.
What was it like playing at home in Berlin? Was there a moment where you got goose bumps during introductions?
It honestly felt like a home away feeling. It was a lot different than a normal Alba home game. It didn’t really look like the Alba arena. It all felt closer than what it normally is. I thought it had that NCAA feeling with all the media around.
You can only prepare so much for a tournament like this so all teams were in the same boat. Despite going 3-2 and losing in the round of 16, is it fair to say Croatia underachieved?
The competition was top notch. It felt like all the teams were the same. Finland had one really good NBA player and the rest were all good role players. They all knew how to play very well together. Italy beat Serbia powerhouse. Italy was another team that played really well together.
You lost a tough 93-86 game to Finland. I guess cutting Lauri Markkanen’s points in half would of got you the win?
Yes no question. Everything ran through him. It didn’t matter who was on the screen, but everything went to him. He is a big time player that made big plays.
Everyone always talks about Giannis, but how good is Markkanen really? Where do you see his game going in the future in the NBA?
If he can do what he did here in the NBA, then it will be crazy. He is a typical stretch 4/5 in NBA. When he gets his step back going, it’s crazy. He makes almost every shot. I definitely will follow him closer with the Utah Jazz.
You had to hold off a feisty Ukrainian team. What was it like playing against a country in mourning?
They were very tough. They beat Italy so we technically beat Italy. Mykhailiuk was a very good player. He had been cut from the NBA and is a free agent. He played really well. They also had Alex Len from the NBA and then like so many other teams very good role players that did their jobs. They played with that never back down mentality and were very physical. They really opened my eyes, because there are so many great players that you always have to be ready. There are so many guys trying to work up to my spot.
What was it like battling Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk? He has established himself in the NBA for some years now. You played in the NBA Summer League and could play in the NBA. Do you feel like there is much difference in talent level of you two?
I have always heard that the margin between Euroleague players and NBA role players is very minimal. The big difference is with the stars. With a guy like Giannis there isn’t much room for air. The stars go hard each game. If he tastes blood, he will keep going and not take any plays off. The only difference between the NBA role players and Euroleague players is opportunity.
What is your summary of the 2022 Euro of how Croatia played. What positives do you feel could the country take from this Euro?
We just have to keep building. Croatia hasn’t been successful in a while and just need to keep working and be scrappy. There were some games where we tried to protect ourselves too much. We have to go out and play better together.
Croatia had a lot of veterans, but also some young guys. How do you see the state of Croatian basketball? Where do you see the future going?
I feel like the state of basketball in Croatia is great. They love their basketball there. They pride themselves on their rich history. They need to keep having that hunger. I felt like we had that hunger, but just ran into tough competition. Croatia has talented young players and need to continue to develop it in the next years. They will be tough.
You played with 4 NBA guys Zubac, Bogdanovic, Saric and Henzonja. Please say a few words about each guy and what you appreciated most about them?
Zubac was a cool dude and not that typical Euro player. He lives in L.A and doesn’t have that Hollywood lifestyle, but knows how Americans are. I really appreciated him, because he helped me a lot with adjusting to the team. Bogdanovic helped me see the game differently and also helped me a lot. He has a lot different IQ then many and helped me how to run different plays and helped me tweak certain areas of my game. I feel like I really improved my game. Saric is a typical stretch 4/5 player and is a pick and pop player, but really can do a bit of all on the floor. He is very versatile and also had a great IQ. Hezonja is bucket. I can’t wait to play against him in the Euroleague. He always kept the mood light when it was serious. All these players made my job easier.
You had a solid Euro 2022 averaging 12,0ppg, 2,0rpg, 4,0apg and 1,0spg .How content were you with your game?
I felt like I played pretty well. There were some games where I didn’t perform as well. But everyone I spoke to said I played solid. I just have to run with what everyone said. I thought that I was solid for my first international tournament. I really enjoyed it.
Do you feel like your game was noticed on a very big stage? How did you experience how people took in your game?
Croatia let me play my game and how I wanted to play. I feel like my game was noticed. All I could do was play my game the way I know how.
Will you continue to play for team Croatia if asked? What was your biggest joy at the Euro 2022?
I would like to play for Croatia again if asked. It was a very fun experience. I feel like my most memorable experience was training camp in Croatia. The scenery there was amazing. Seeing the mountains and water was so lovely. The people there were so friendly. They treated me like a Croatian.
Please name the toughest player that you faced at the Euro 2022? I can imagine it Was Giannis. You both were the 2 best players on the court.
Giannis was the toughest. He is on another level. When you see that he won an NBA title and MVP and then see why he is at another level.
Please give your predictions for the quarterfinals: Germany-Greece, Spain-Finland, Slovenia-Poland and France-Italy?
I feel like Germany can get Greece. I feel like Spain got the size to slow down Markkanen to win. I think Slovenia will win and Italy also will win. Italy play so well together. It is like family. France is dysfunctional.
Who will the win the whole thing?
Slovenia will beat Germany in the final and Italy will take third.
Luka Doncic tore up the tournament like he did in the NBA. Where do you see him right now with the best in the world and in Europe?
Luka is top 5 in the NBA and second in Europe behind Giannis. Luka is still young and talks to much with the refs. Giannis takes care of business.
Thanks Jaleen for the chat.
Tags : JALEEN SMITH,