It was last spring when Jairus Lyles had his coming out party and took the basketball world by storm.
His No.16 UMBC Retrievers were on the verge of doing the impossible. A 16th seeded team had never beaten a No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament, yet here they were looking to do just that.
Suffering through cramps during the second half, Lyles scored 23 of his 28 points as UMBC built an insurmountable lead over Virginia as they cruised to a 75-54 victory and advanced to the second round of March Madness.
“It was an incredible feeling, just to do it with that group of guys,” Lyles told Ridiculous Upside. “We were playing so hard that whole year so it was a special moment.”
The Retrievers would put up a fight against Kansas State in the next round but ultimately fell short. It didn’t matter, however, Lyles was now a legit prospect in the eyes of the NBA.
The then senior guard finished his college career as the Retrievers second all-time scoring leader with 1,751 points.
”It definitely helped me,” Lyles told Ridiculous Upside. “If you can play like that on that type of stage, it definitely helps.”
Lyles worked out for a few teams prior to the NBA draft but didn’t hear his name called on draft night. He accepted an invitation to play summer league with the Utah Jazz in both Utah and Las Vegas.
He ended up having a solid showing for the Jazz during their initial summer league play in Utah. He showed an ability to score the basketball and stood out as a defender. The Jazz were convinced enough of his talent that during the Las Vegas summer league, they signed him to an Exhibit 10 deal, giving them the option of converting his contract to a two-way.
Being that it was his first time tasting NBA level competition, Lyles was grateful for his time in summer league.
”It was good, just to get to play against a lot of different pros, it was a good experience,” Lyles told Ridiculous Upside. “You learn a lot, you learn how to play the game, learn how to operate on that kind of level, it was a good learning experience.”
Lyles came to training camp and preseason with the Jazz but was ultimately one of the final roster cuts. After being cut, he joined the Jazz G-League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars.
The G-League has come a long way since its inception as the NBA’s Development League (NBDL) back in 2001. Almost every NBA team has a G-League affiliate now and it has really started to live up to its billing as a development league for players looking to reach the NBA.
Although he’s only played in six games so far, Lyles has been impressed with the level of competition. He’s averaged 9.5 points per game, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. He looks at the G-League as a means to get to his ultimate goal.
”You just got to take it one game at a time,” Lyles told Ridiculous Upside. “Do what your coaches ask, get your work in when you can, and just stay positive and stay motivated and patient. It’s a good stepping stone.”
For now, Lyles is biding his time, in hopes that an NBA team will come calling as the season progresses. But until then, he is confident in what he can bring at the next level.
”I’m just a hard worker, I play hard every single game,” Lyles told Ridiculous Upside. “I can score, but I can also get my teammates involved, play defense, and be somebody who’s coachable and just a great teammate most importantly.”