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Jaylen Morris and his unlikely climb to the NBA

The young wing from New York is ready to prove that there is no substitute for hard work and determination.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Morris. A name that probably didn’t cause a single fan to bat an eyelash when first announced as a Atlanta Hawks 10-day signee back on February 28th. Be advised though, Jaylen Morris is no ordinary 10-day player.

Morris is a product of Amherst, New York, a tight knit suburb with a growing population of just over a hundred thousand citizens. After beginning his basketball career at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in Buffalo, it quickly became apparent that Morris possessed legitimate next-level talent on the defensive end. As a senior at St. Joseph’s, he was an honorable mention on the All-Western New York team and was awarded the honor of “Mr. Defense”, a title given to the single best defensive player in the state.

However, soon after his successful run at St. Joseph’s, Morris had to find out the hard way that a run to the professional level would not be easy. Despite being one of the best defensive prospects coming out of high school, there weren’t many college offers coming Jaylen’s way. Morris’ father is an assistant coach at Molloy College, a small private Catholic college within metropolitan New York, where Jaylen decided to enroll as a student athlete in 2013.

Molloy, an NCAA Division II school, seemed to be the perfect fit for Morris as he immediately could come in and get playing time and get playing time he did. Morris started 20 of 28 games as a freshman helping to advance Molloy to the ECC tournament semifinals in his first season. Jaylen was able to work his way into the record books over his next three seasons with Molloy, eventually becoming the fourth highest scorer in school history. According to the Molloy Athletics website, he was also a Division II All-East Region Second Team selection as a senior and was All ECC First Team in 2016-17.

Despite all these accolades Morris accrued at Molloy he still faced adversity once again when he went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Morris did not give up and instead began his professional career by paying $150 to work out with the Long Island Nets, the G-League affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets, his hometown team. Then, in the 2017 G-League Draft, it seemed as though Morris might end up being passed over again before the Erie Bayhawks swooped in to snag Morris with the 41st overall pick.

Morris went right back to work as he had done so many times in the past after being overlooked by colleges and NBA teams and really forced the Hawks to take a serious look at the 22-year-old with his solid play for the Bayhawks. Averaging 12.6 points, five rebounds and two assists per game in 40 contests for Erie this season was finally enough for the Hawks to take a chance on Morris and sign him to his first 10-day contract.

Morris was called upon immediately to showcase his skills for a Hawks team that has been in need of defense all season long and responded with the same hard work and determination that got him to the NBA in the first place. Morris never takes a play off on defense and is opportunistic on offense as he continues to develop his three point jumper along with his passing skills.

Now, as Morris faces yet another hurdle in his path to success, getting injured on just the third day of his second 10-day contract, there is no doubt that he will work harder than ever to get back.

Jaylen Morris, a high school defensive star that got a chance at a Division II school and ended up spending his own money to practice with a G-League team just to have a chance at getting drafted, has his eyes on a bigger goal and is for sure going to fight with everything he has to keep his dream alive.