Grand Rapids Drive guard Jamel Morris is used to being regarded as the underdog. He parlayed a collegiate career at D-II school Fairmont State into a special open tryout showing that eventually catapulted him to joining the Grand Rapids Drive. After starting 39 games this past season, the 25 year old found himself competing against the G League’s best prospects at the 2018 Elite Mini-Camp this week.
“I play with a chip on my shoulder and that gives me an edge. I always work hard and I’m careful not to think I’m better than anyone,” Morris told RidiculousUpside.com. “I used to watch these guys on television. Once you feel like you belong, you can’t let up. This is my time to make the most out of opportunities.”
The camp certainly was a special opportunity, one that Morris didn’t take for granted.
“There was great competition there. When you have forty of the best players, it’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “The NBA personnel was right in front, watching us all day. It’s nerve wracking, but you know it’s time to bring your A-game.”
After shooting an impressive 39% from deep and tallying 12.7 points for the Drive, one might think producing more of the same success would be enough to get Morris noticed. Nevertheless, the guard had a goal in mind to elevate his game even higher on this stage.
“I tried to show that I can do more than just shoot the ball. I want people to see that I can be a combo guard, defend both positions, and take on some ball-handling duties. In order to make the NBA, you need to show that you can defend and play with effort,” he said. “Do the little things. Otherwise, they’ll write you off.”
After his first year in Grand Rapids, Morris was tasked with playing alongside new teammates and for a different coach at the camp. It’s a challenge he eagerly attacked.
“Coming into the camp, I wanted to prove I can come off screens and stuff like that,” the guard explained. “My teammates were Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Isaiah Cousins, so I did my best to play off them, find open shots, and stay involved in the offense.”
His hard work is already paying off. Morris hopes to keep proving himself at NBA free agent camps in the weeks to come. Following a strong showing at the camp, it sounds like he’ll have that opportunity.
“Right now, you want to get invited to as many mini-camps as you can. After this, I’m receiving interest from teams like the Pistons and Clippers,” the 25 year old conveyed. “Next step will obviously be NBA Summer League, but I’m looking forward to just taking small steps and going from there.
Morris’ success speaks for itself, but it can’t ignored that he was one of four Drive athletes to make the Elite Mini-Camp.
“It’s a credit to our organization and the program. Landry [Nnoko] was Defensive Player of the Year. KJ [McDaniels] is electric and athletic. Derek [Willis] is a sharpshooter. We had a good year — our coaches and staff helped us get here,” he exclaimed.
Such group success is something he takes pride in. Now, he’s ready to continue strutting his stuff on whichever stage follows.