The “buts” constantly follow Ja Morant, the Murray State sensation who is expected to go second in the NBA draft Thursday.
But he played at a mid-major.
But he didn’t face the likes of Duke and fellow top pick Zion Williamson.
But he’s 19 years old and untested.
None of that matters to Morant, who entered the draft after his sophomore year of college and was asked during media day about dealing with that negativity.
Ja Morant: “I love negative energy, it motivates me. My dad was my first hater.” pic.twitter.com/OtleId7DEZ
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) June 19, 2019
“I really like the negative energy. The ‘he hasn’t played against nobody. He’s too small. He can’t shoot.’ I love, like, negative energy motivates me. It really doesn’t bother me because my dad was my first hater. So if I can take it from him, I can take it from anybody.”
Morant’s rise is well-documented and while his father, Tee Morant, may be his “first hater,” he’s also one of his biggest supporters. Tee Morant is a former college player himself who recorded his son’s games on a GoPro in the hopes someone would notice the talent. He and Ja’s mother, Jamie Morant, got in on the fun when the family pranked Murray State coaches in Ja making a commitment to the school.
The teenager’s stock rose as he took the Racers to the second round of the NCAA tournament this year. He played in all but three of the team’s 200 postseason minutes and in March averaged 27.4 points per game, 5.8 rebounds and 8.8 assists.
Over the entire season he averaged 24.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Grizzlies, who dealt veteran point guard Mike Conley Jr in a trade with the Utah Jazz earlier Wednesday, are expected to draft Morant with the No. 2 overall pick. Morant underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure on his right knee this month and is expected to fully recover within four weeks. He told reporters Wednesday it “doesn’t hurt at all” and he expects to play in summer league.
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