It’s Tuesday morning, two days before the 2019 NBA Draft, and presumptive top-three pick and soon-to-be multimillionaire Ja Morant is projecting a cool, calm, and collected persona, at least over the phone. Morant is 19 years old, a point guard from a mid-major school (Murray State) who began his collegiate career as an unranked prospect. The idea that this fast-approaching, life-altering milestone isn’t fazing him seems, on its face and in a word, impossible.
I tell him as much, but Morant gives some more context: He didn’t watch the draft when he was growing up. There’s no nostalgia factor. “The draft I want to watch is the one I’m in,” Morant says. He has no favorite draft-day suits, or memories of a big-time trade going down in the first round.
None of this is to say that Morant doesn’t care about the game. He spent his formative years patiently waiting on a growth spurt that would get him past the six-feet mark, practicing tirelessly on the outdoor court his dad constructed in their backyard in South Carolina. Murray State discovered Morant on accident, while scouting someone else in a next-door gym full of higher-ranked high schoolers. And now, Morant stands a solid 6-foot-3, coming off a season in which he averaged 24.5 points, 10 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game, while leading the Racers to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Below, Morant previews his very own draft-day outfit, remarks on his AAU days with Zion Williamson, and explains why he doesn’t play music when he works out.
GQ: I was watching the recent E:60 feature on you, and I saw you had 50 to 60 people playing pickup in your backyard. That’s a crazy number.
Ja Morant: Yeah, I think the highest we had was close to 100 people. It could fit 50-60 pretty easily. A lot of guys I played with or was currently playing with, or older guys I grew up playing against, would come out. I would just let them know on social media. But once everybody got used to it, I didn’t even have to post anything anymore. Everybody just knew we played every Sunday.
And your dad would make food for everyone? That sounds like a scene.
Yeah, he used to cook on the grill—hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, ribs. My mom would cook inside with the in-house cooking stuff.
Who’s the better cook?
[Laughs] I can’t answer that because the other one might get mad.
Can we just acknowledge for a minute how weird it is that you played on the same AAU team as Zion Williamson?
Yeah, I’ve definitely thought about that lately, because it’s all I hear.
Are you sick of people asking about that?
Nah, it’s cool. It was definitely our goal to make it to the NBA, and most people didn’t know we actually played on the same team.
I know y’all were a little younger—Zion was a high school freshman—but were cameras showing up to film him yet?
Nah, not yet. I think our team is what got the cameras to start coming.
Have you ever wondered what your college prospects would’ve looked like if you had all those cameras on you during AAU?
No, the thing is, there were still coaches watching my team back then too. So I don’t think the camera would’ve done anything.
You’ve mentioned before that you consider yourself a fashion guy. When did that start?
Probably my seventh- or eighth-grade year in middle school. Well, we wore uniforms then. But I used to have a lot of stuff to wear outside of school, and have always been a fashion guy.
How’s the draft-day outfit shaping up? You feel good about what you’ve selected?
Yeah, I feel good about it. I’m not going to say too much on what I’m wearing, but I will definitely have my hoop earrings, my necklace, and Tissot watch [Ed. Note: Morant has an endorsement deal with Tissot, which set up this interview]. It’s nothing too much, but it’ll turn some heads.
D’Angelo Russell won the GQ NBA style bracket this year. What do you think of his style?
Honestly, I’ve never really seen him dress up. I think the thing I’ve paid the most attention to is P.J. Tucker’s game shoes.
Are you going to be a big sneakerhead in the league?
Oh yeah, I’m a sneakerhead now. It’s going to transfer over. I have too many shoes to count, honestly.
But probably not on P.J. Tucker’s level, I assume?
He’s on a whole different level.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander made the GQ NBA style bracket as a rookie. What are you gonna aim for style-wise to pull that feat off?
I probably wouldn’t dress up quite as much because I want to be comfortable before the game.
So you might take the Giannis Antetokounmpo route?
Yeah, that’s my favorite style right now. The sweat suit.
What are you listening to right now?
Lil Baby is my favorite artist. I also like NBA YoungBoy. It’s a mixture of a lot of rappers, but Lil Baby is definitely number one.
What do you listen to when you’re working out?
I don’t play music. I just be trying to stay focused.
Really? I feel like people get bored during workouts without music.
I don’t think I can get bored with trying to get better.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Originally Appeared on GQ