Ja Morant may not be a Duke Blue Devil, but he deserves the respect and publicity of athletes like Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. Morant is a sophomore at Murray State and is dominating the college game. After averaging just 12.7 points per game his freshman year, Morant has exploded to averaging 23.3 points, 10.6 assists, and 6.1 rebounds per game with room to still grow and improve. Morant is explosive, dynamic, and has a great vertical jump. The sophomore is currently projected to go 3rd or 4th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft; so why don’t we know more about him?
One of the main reasons many haven’t heard of him simply may be the lack of exposure around his team. As fans, we are blasted with stats from what seems like the same couple teams, and we only ever see different teams if they pull off an upset or a crazy buzzer- beater. Anyone who is a fan of NCAA basketball knows just how damaging an underrated team can be; just ask Virginia about UMBC or Duke about Lehigh. Morant can play with the best of them and deserves more time in the lime light. How did this kind of talent slide to down past teams like Duke, Kansas, or Kentucky?
Morant was an extremely good high school player. He joined his high school’s team (Crestwood High School) as a sophomore and left the leading scorer in school history with 1,679 points. He earned all-state honors his junior and senior year for his dynamic play and averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game over those two years. Despite his athleticism, he received only one major Division 1 offer from South Carolina with other Division 1 offers from schools like Wofford and Duquesne. He chose to attend Murray State.
Morant played AAU basketball with Williamson so he clearly was used to the spotlight. I believe the reason why he wasn’t as highly touted as Williamson is because Morant, at the time, wasn’t as tenacious and well known for his dunking. Williamson became a phenom for his dunking ability first, and basketball play second. Dunking is flashy, sleek, and it’s much more exciting to watch a windmill dunk instead of a nice, gritty drive to the basket for the average fan or social media junky. Williamson became a fan favorite for his leaping ability and earned more looks than Morant, who is still an incredible athlete.
Morant simply was overlooked, no way around it. His talent and skill place him near the top of the extremely loaded 2019 NBA draft. Granted he may be able to put up more points and stats because he has to carry the team, as opposed to Williamson who has backup in two other elite freshmen, but Morant is a freak athlete. Personally, I believe it will benefit Morant to be without stars around him because it will allow him to shine more and will force him to develop more carrying a bigger load. I believe Morant will develop enough and should be taken with the 2nd overall pick behind Williamson. While Duke may be a #1 or #2 seed and cruise to a possible title behind their loaded team, watch out for this Murray State team if Morant can get them hot enough to steal some games in the tournament.