Murray State star and projected NBA lottery pick Ja Morant takes a shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: If you could pick the brain of any player in NBA history, who would it be?
A: I would probably say Kobe [Bryant]. … Because like a dog, killer mentality he has. I would ask questions about like: What did he do? That type of stuff, and I guess what was his mindset.
Q: How would you describe your on-court mentality?
A: I have that same mentality, I just play with this chip on my shoulder coming from being under the radar in high school and stuff. That’s my mentality, just a killer mentality.
Q: So am I talking to Black Mamba II?
A: (Laugh) I don’t know about that, but I know you’re talking to Ja Morant.
Q: You consider yourself a “point god.” Who are some of the other point gods?
A: Obviously I think you have to list Magic [Johnson] in that category, but I think Chris Paul should be one of ’em also.
Q: What is your definition of a point god?
A: It’s actually a lot of people blowing it up, but it’s something that me and my dad have always been saying for a while now. I feel like it’s a lot of scoring guards now in the league. Not saying that they can’t make those plays, but I feel like a point god just makes your job way easier, but if you call on him to score, then he can.
Q: What one trait do you have that you believe will make you a success in the NBA?
A: I’ll say my IQ, my feel for the games. Sometimes I see plays before anybody else sees it, so it kind of gives me an advantage on the defense already, and allows me to make plays for me and my teammates.
Q: If you were an NBA GM, why should you draft Ja?
A: Not only will I try to bring a championship to the organization, I’ll try to make an impact in the community. Another thing I like to do outside of basketball is to help and do something good in the community.
Q: You tweeted last month: “I still got a lot to prove.”
A: There’s probably still some people out there that think my game won’t translate to the next level, this and that. Obviously, at one point in time I never thought I’d be in this situation, so just being able to play in the NBA is an honor, but you gotta make a name for yourself, and I feel like that’s what I strive to do.
Q: What kind of a pro will Duke star Zion Williamson be?
A: I feel like Zion will be a great pro. I’ve seen it playing AAU with him, I knew he was gonna be a very special player. It’s rare that you see somebody that size do the things he does. So I know he will be a very successful NBA player.
Q: What kind of guy is Zion?
A: He’s a very, I guess, chill, laid-back type of dude, but once he gets comfortable, he started to joke a lot and stuff.
Q: What are you like off the court?
A: I’m really the same. I just like to have fun, but I’m a chill, laid-back person, and I guess once I get comfortable around you, that’s when I get to joking and stuff.
Q: What kind of pro do you think Duke’s RJ Barrett will be?
A: I think he also will be a great pro. He can play multiple positions, he can handle the ball, shoot the ball, he can finish inside and also make plays for his teammates.
Q: If you could go 1-on-1 with any player in NBA history, who would you pick?
A: Michael Jordan.
Q: How do you think you’d do?
A: I think (chuckle), obviously it’ll be a great learning experience, but also a battle for me. He’s the greatest of all time, so hopefully I do good (laugh).
Q: How many times have you been to New York?
A: Never. I haven’t been to a lot of places, to be honest (chuckle).
Q: What will your emotions be Tuesday night in Chicago at the NBA lottery?
A: Just to be in the position that I’m in right now, and coming from where I’ve been, I think that’s just like a “wow” moment for me right now.
Q: How would you feel if you ended up with the Knicks?
A: Honestly, I’ll feel good with whatever team drafts me. If it’s New York or any other team, obviously it means that that team sees a lot in me and trusts me, I guess, with drafting me, so I will come in and get to work immediately and try to make an impact.
Q: Do you think you can make an immediate impact?
A: I feel like I can. I’m not, I guess, the person to talk about himself a lot, but I’m also very confident in myself. I do believe that I have the attributes to make an impact in the NBA.
Q: What areas do you need to improve the most?
A: My size, my strength. And that’s my main focus right now is to get bigger and stronger, and with that, I’m also doing stuff to get faster and increase my vertical.
Q: What do you weigh right now?
A: 172 [pounds].
Q: What do you want to play at next year?
A: Around 180.
Q: You projected to be drafted within the top two or three picks, at the worst. How do you feel about that?
A: It’s a great feeling. I really can’t describe how I’m feeling, but I’m happy.
Q: What will that night mean to your father Tee?
A: It’ll mean a lot to him. It’s a dream that he was actually chasing and passed up to raise me, so it’ll be like an accomplishment for him too. Right now that’s my motivation, living my dream and his dream through me. So we’ll be able to achieve that dream.
Q: He taught you everything in the backyard.
A: We actually had this piece of concrete back there, and as the years went by we just expanded it. That’s where I worked out at, that’s where I call the hoop sessions back there. That’s I guess where I got that little killer mentality, too.
Q: That’s where he would call you “overrated” all the time, too?
A: Yeah, it was there, and in any gym that I played in.
Q: Did that helped prepare you for the fans who called you overrated last year on the road?
A: When I actually realized [why he] was doing it, [it] helped me along the way.
Q: What is your best basketball moment?
A: I’ll probably say the triple-double [against Marquette, an 83-64 first-round upset win] in March Madness.
Q: What is it about the way Russell Westbrook plays that you like so much?
A: It’s just his killer mentality and how he just tries to play an all-around game and do whatever he can to help his team win — whether it’s points, rebounds, assists, steals, anything. That’s how I try to play.
Q: Is there a switch that turns on once you take the court?
A: Yeah, it’s a little switch I feel like. I have to prove myself every night, especially coming from where I come from. And I feel like being under the radar, and the chip that I had on my shoulder would never go away, and that’s what I play with once I step inside those four lines, it’s about business.
Q: Describe the influence of your grandmothers.
A: Both of my grandmas had an influence on me. They both talked to me a lot about keeping God first, and trusting in God, and with God on your side, anything’s possible. Just with them telling me those things and sending me messages, it lifts me up and gives me motivation to keep going no matter if it’s a dark day or a bright day.
Q: Mama Lin.
A: That’s my mom’s mom. When I see her in person, she tells me that she’s proud of me, and I think that’s one thing everybody would like to hear from their grandma or parent.
Q: Tell me what your mother Jamie means to you.
A: She’s a cool lady. She obviously helped me during my down times, like if I’m going through something. Just all-around great person, but (chuckle) when I’m playing, and she’s in the stands cheering, that’s when she gets a lot of energy.
Q: What is the best piece of advice she ever gave you?
A: She just told me basically to just keep my head down, stay grounded, and just continue to work, and she always told me that I was beneath no one. And it’s still something I go by to this day.
Q: When did you get the “Beneath No One” tattoo on your left arm?
A: It was actually a while back, during like my senior year.
Q: Are you more like your mom or your dad?
A: I’ll say both. I think it’s a mix. I think like joking-wise and everything, I’m like my father, but sometimes like with my temper, it’ll be Mom (chuckle).
Q: What was the angriest you ever saw your mother?
A: I probably would be fouled hard or something (chuckle), and the refs wouldn’t call it back home or anything, and she just gets frustrated and get to yelling in the stands and stuff (chuckle).
A: Really mainly basketball. I rarely play the video games now. I’m not into like going out and all those type of things. But other than I guess I can say basketball is I’m a big fashion guy. … I love shoes.
Q: How many pair of shoes do you have?
A: (Laugh) I can’t even tell you a number right off the bat, honestly. Probably shoes that I wear out, I probably got somewhere around like 40. But basketball-wise, I probably got like 10-12.
Q: How would you describe your fashion style?
A: I try to just wear stuff that only I can pull off.
A: If I play good, I’ll try to keep the same thing going.
Q: Why was Dalzell, S.C, .a good place to grow up?
A: I guess it just kept me humble, and it also made me kind of who I am. I’m a big family person. It’s just a small town and everybody there knows each other.
Q: How did you meet your girlfriend KK?
A: It was actually my freshman year, we played against her brother at Middle Tennessee. They came to us and she came to the game.
Q: How would you describe her?
A: She’s almost basically a reflection of me. She’s chill, laid back, once she gets comfortable she gets to joking, but all-around great girl.
Q: Do you still perform like Michael Jackson?
A: (Chuckle) Nah, I think I lost my touch.
Q: When was the last time your father had you perform like him?
A: Probably I would say 10 years old. So it’s been some years.
Q: So after the lottery you’re not gonna moonwalk for us?
A: Nah (laugh).
Q: What do you want to say about Murray State?
A: I just want to thank ’em for the opportunity to play there to start off, and it’s just an all-around great program, great coaching staff, and the campus, the advisers and everything are great. I’ll definitely be rooting for all of ’em again this year and hoping they can do a threepeat [as Ohio Valley Conference champs].
Q: Three dinner guests?
A: Lil Baby, Kevin Hart and Martin Lawrence would be there too for some jokes (chuckle).
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “Space Jam.”
Q: Favorite actor?
A: Martin Lawrence.
Q: Favorite entertainer?
A: Lil Baby.
Q: Favorite meal?
Q: Career goals?
A: I think my main focus right now is just to get better as a player before I even get to the NBA. Once I guess I get there, then that’s when I’ll start to set goals for myself. I just want to get in the NBA and make a name for myself.
Q: Was there one big influence other than your father basketball wise?
A: Other than my family not really, but now this past year, my freshman year, right before the season, I lost a family member.
Q: Who did you lose?
A: My cousin [Trey], my uncle’s son, he died in a motorcycle accident.
Q: How old was he?
Q: How did you get the news?
A: My dad called me and told me. I couldn’t stop crying, I tried to go to the gym and shoot and it didn’t help. I talked with my coaches, and I ended up getting a flight to go home to be with my family. I think I stayed home for 2-3 days and went back to Murray and got right back to work.
Q: You were close with him?
A: Yeah, real close. Like how our family’s set up, everybody was close, so all the kids would be together. I basically looked up to him and he always told me like keep going with basketball and stuff. I know he’ll be happy to see where I’m at right now, and I know he’s watching over me.
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