Tulane guard Jaylen Forbes: ‘I’m one of the better shooters in the draft’

Following a sensational senior year with the Tulane Green Wave, Jaylen Forbes is looking to make a name for himself after declaring for the 2023 NBA draft.

Forbes was named to the All-AAC second team after averaging a career-high 18.5 points, five rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.7 assists in 31 games on 38.8% shooting from 3-point range. He was second in the conference in minutes per game (36.5) after ranking first over the two previous years.

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He started his college career at the University of Alabama. He played one season with the Crimson Tide and eventually decided to transfer to Tulane. He has earned all-conference honors in each of his three years with the Green Wave and has improved with each season.

He emerged as a tremendous scorer over that time.

The 6-foot-5 guard finished third in the conference in scoring and fourth in 3-pointers (88) last season. He scored in double figures in all but two games and produced 14 20-point games, including a season-high 31 points in a win over SMU on Jan. 11.

Forbes helped the Green Wave (20-11, 12-6) to their first 20-win season since 2013 when they were in Conference USA. He was one of eight players in the country to average at least 18 points and five rebounds with 80 total 3-pointers.

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Now, Forbes is focused on the pre-draft process.

He announced on March 29 that he would declare for the draft with the option to return to school next season. He is currently preparing for the draft in New Orleans while also maintaining his schoolwork at Tulane. He will eventually be training in Dallas, Texas.

Rookie Wire caught up with Forbes this week to discuss testing the pre-draft process, working out with teams, receiving advice from former Crimson Tide teammate Herb Jones and more.

Please note: This interview was minorly edited in its transcript for clarity

How has everything been since your season ended?

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JF: Everything has been good. I have just been staying in the gym to keep trying to get better. I’m still at school right now. I still have a couple of final exams I have to finish. After I work out with Oklahoma City next week, I’ll be traveling to Dallas and that’s where I’ll be working out at.

As a player that is maintaining your college eligibility, how has it been to manage your schoolwork while also preparing for the draft?

JF: It isn’t easy but I’m just enjoying the process. This is my first time doing something like this. It is my first time even flying first class so it is crazy getting on the plane and I’m in first class. I was in Boston and I had a final exam so I had to do some work in a hotel the night before the workout. It is kind of tough but I’m just enjoying the process at the same time.

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How is it flying in first class and to be put up in these hotels?

JF: It has been crazy. I’m so blessed to be able to even be in this position. There are people that get on the plane and they’ll just be looking at me crazy because I’m not supposed to belong up there. I’m legit sitting in the first seat on the plane. It is kind of surreal.

Your agency, JCK Sports, also signed your Tulane teammate Kevin Cross. How has that been to test the draft with him?

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JF: It has been good. We talk about it just about every day. We call each other twins. He is just like my twin brother. We almost do everything together. We’ve got the same agency so we’re both chasing our dreams. It is hard to put into words right now. I’ve been struggling to put it into words to my coaches when I got back because I’m really just chasing my dreams.

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I’ve had a couple of workouts so far so I’ve given him a couple of tips on what to make sure he gets done and what to expect when he goes into workouts. When we’re in New Orleans together, we go to the gym together and make sure that we’re pushing each other in the areas we need to improve on.

How much have you grown over your four years in college?

JF: I feel like I’ve grown a lot mentally. At Bama, I was really that young freshman that you could tell was just young and just a freshman. Now, I feel like I can actually lead a team now. I’ve had times this past season where I actually felt myself being a good teammate and not only just a good teammate but a great leader so I feel like I’ve improved a lot on the leadership role with my time here at Tulane.

Who are some of the players you are watching or try to model some of your game after?

JF: I always watch Klay Thompson just because he really doesn’t even dribble the ball. He is such a pure shooter so I like to watch how he comes off screens and how he creates separation to get his shot off. Kevin Durant is actually my favorite player, though. I watch a lot of Kevin Durant highlights.

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This past year, I decided how serious I was going to be on defense so one thing I’d always do was watch Herb Jones defensive highlights. Just trying to catch on to the intangibles of how he gets so many deflections. It is insane! I still talk to Herb just about every day now. I feel like that’s why my defense kind of improved the way it did.

What kind of advice does Herb give you?

JF: I was talking to him about the workouts. He always tells me the same thing: ‘Keep that dog in me.’ We were competitive when I was at Alabama. I haven’t told people this but Herb literally jumped over me and dunked on me one time at practice. I still have the video on my phone. The very next possession, he came down again and tried to dunk on me again and I jumped again just to show how hard I can compete. He is just telling me to make sure I keep the same dog in me and just keep competing.

Did you know at that time Herb would develop into the player he is now?

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JF: I’m not going to lie to you — I always knew Herb would be who he is. He played through so many injuries and showed how tough of a guy he was. The LSU game — I’ve never seen nothing like this before and I still find it insane. He played with a broken wrist and it was actually his shooting wrist but LSU was actually a good team then and we needed that game.

We go into that game and Herb has 17 rebounds with one hand and it was his off-hand. It came to a point in the game where he knocked down some clutch free throws with literally one hand shooting it like underhanded and made both of them. Those two free throws were big free throws and ever since then, you knew this guy had it.

How did competing against Herb and the rest of your teammates at Alabama prepare you?

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JF: Going against people like Herb, John Petty, Kira Lewis … My freshman year, I had some tough competition. There were some practices where they gave it to me but I was still out there competing no matter how we were doing.

How do you think the AAC prepared you as a player going up against teams like Houston and Memphis?

JF: I feel like it has prepared me well. Playing against Houston isn’t easy. It is a great program every year. Also, the same thing with Memphis no matter the players they have. I feel like this conference has always been a very, very tough conference. I’m not sure why we only get as many bids (in the NCAA Tournament) as we do but it’s just another challenge that we have to accept. We just gotta knock those teams at the top off and I feel like we’re on the right track of doing that.

What did it mean to you to get voted to the All-AAC second team this past season?

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JF: It means a lot. Even though it’s only the second team, I feel like I should have been on the first team all of my years here. The past two years, I felt, personally, that I should have gotten a first-team all-conference but it is what it is. At the end of the day, I’m grateful to be able to be named to the second team.

One goal that I still have, if I return to school, that is going to be at the top of my list is to win me a ring. I’ve yet to win a ring yet and that’s something I want really bad. Our football team gave us some motivation. We use their season as motivation for us and we got our first 20-win season since 2013. We are making progress, and with the guys that we’ve added, I feel like they will help us next year.

How much motivation did the football team give you all?

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JF: It’s a lot of motivation. Just to see how much work they put in coming from a 2-10 season to winning (the conference championship and a New Year’s Six bowl game), I’m happy for those guys. You see their hard work even paid off within the draft. I think like 10 guys got drafted (or signed with teams) so not a lot of teams can say 10 guys (went to the NFL) off of one team in the same season. It’s a lot of motivation so I promise you we’re definitely using that as a chip.

Where do you think you stand out among players in the draft this year?

JF: I feel like I’m one of the better shooters in the draft but I know shooting isn’t the only thing that’ll get me in the draft. I feel like my defense is something that is really slept on a lot just because here at Tulane, we don’t really play a man-to-man so people may not pay attention to my defensive intangibles. But I feel like with my shooting ability and my defense, I can be a good 3-and-D guy in the league.

How are your workouts going with teams and what's it like to compete against other guys?

JF: The workouts have been pretty good. We’re doing a lot of 3-on-3s and a lot of 1s just to see if guys can play and react to different situations. I feel like I’ve done pretty good and will only continue to get better and better as the workouts continue to come. I’m in workouts with guys like Tyrese Hunter and guys that went to big schools like that and just seeing that I’m able to really compete with the best of them, gives me a lot of confidence. I know I can compete with them but at the same time, you just haven’t been put to the test firsthand. Going through these workouts, I’m being put to the test firsthand and it is something I’m definitely having fun with.

What kind of work have you done to get your shot to where it is now?

JF: I’m in the gym so much working on my shot. This past season, there were times when my coaches were telling me like, ‘Forbes, you gotta go home!’ There were times after practice when I would want to work out again for maybe the second or third time and my coaches were like, ‘Forbes, you’ve gotta let your body rest.’ Every summer, I’m getting up at 8 o’clock in the morning and going to the gym, getting on the shooting machine and I’m getting up at least 500 makes.

That’s one thing that I always go by. I’m not a person that really likes to go out a lot so I literally go to the gym. I come home and I’ll be on the game with Kev. A couple of hours later, I take a nap and I’m going right back to the gym to get up some more shots. When I go to the gym, I feel like some people just go and get up shots but I actually go by the makes. Me going by the makes, I feel like that’s why my shot is so consistent the way that it is.

What will be the deciding factor for you in terms of returning to school or staying in the draft?

JF: If I feel like I could get a good guaranteed deal then it wouldn’t make sense for me to come back to school. But I really don’t see it hurting me to come back to school just because of the fact I feel like we got a better team. We’re more well-rounded than we were last year. I would really be excited to come back and try and win a championship with Kevin and those guys.

Story originally appeared on Rookie Wire