Although it may stand as a change of scenery for the second-year pro, new Milwaukee Bucks two-way player Jaylen Morris will benefit from playing in an environment he is already accustomed to working within.
On a Milwaukee Bucks team that may boast the most improbable rise of recent memory in all of sports in superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, new two-way player Jaylen Morris’ unlikely climb to the NBA is quite remarkable in itself.
Just over a year ago, Morris was weighing his professional options after completing his four-year stay playing for Division II school Molloy College in Long Island, New York. While he and his agent Ronnie Zeidel’s collective sights were initially set on Europe, the interest the 22-year-old generated overseas was not to the level of what they envisioned as Zeidel told Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this year:
“You can send a kid overseas, and he can get lost real easily,” said Zeidel, of RZA Sports. “I didn’t want to send him to some tiny country where he was going to earn $1,000 a month. There were some low-level offers. I didn’t think it was right.”
By pivoting towards staying stateside and locking down a tryout at the G League Player Invitational, Morris unwittingly created a pathway to reach the NBA at a faster rate than anyone could have anticipated.
That came in the form of being taken 41st overall in last year’s G League Draft to being brought on a pair of 10-day contracts as well as signing a non-guaranteed, multi-year deal with the Atlanta Hawks in the span of six months to finish out the regular season last year.
Now after being waived by the Hawks in mid-July and exercising the NBA out in his four-day old deal with Italian club Fiat Torino, Morris will continue adding to his incredible NBA journey with the Bucks on a two-way player capacity.
Of course, it’s very easy to see the draw that led the New York native to come to the Bucks organization. That starts with new head coach Mike Budenholzer, who briefly coached Morris in his six appearances with the parent club following his big move from the Erie Bayhawks.
But perhaps the biggest figure in all of this is new Bucks assistant coach Josh Longstaff, who helmed the Bayhawks’ highly successful campaign last year and oversaw Morris’ development on a personal level.
Longstaff, in particular, has glowed about the various qualities Morris has to offer any time he touches the floor like he did in this interview with Ridiculous Upside’s Dakota Schmidt after Morris got his call up to the Hawks in late February:
“His defense fits right in with who we are,” Bayhawks coach Josh Longstaff recently stated to Ridiculous Upside. “Morris competes every possession, he is often tasked with guarding the other team’s best wing player and he uses his length and athleticism to make it difficult on them…like a lot of our guys, he has NBA potential because he has great work habits.”
“He has taken ownership of his own growth and development,” Longstaff said as he continued to praise Morris. “Combine that with his athleticism, ability to get into the paint and improved 3 point shooting and I think he has great potential.”
Considering that kind of endorsement from someone like Longstaff who certainly has carved out a path to the NBA in his own right, Morris obviously stood as a desirable option to turn to as the Bucks were re-shuffling their two-way slots a few weeks ago.
As much as he has familiarity with Coach Bud and the entire coaching staff that came with him in the move to Milwaukee, Morris will have to start fresh with second-year head coach Jordan Brady when down with the Wisconsin Herd throughout next year.
In any event, with Morris’ professional career having transformed considerably in just a manner of months, the allure of being drawn to those who played critical roles in steering him to where he is today in Milwaukee proved to be too good to pass up.
For now, we’ll have to wait until the season tips off for both the NBA and the G League to see if Morris can expand on the foundation he’s put in place for himself one year into his journey.