The Atlanta Hawks signed former Molloy College basketball standout Jaylen Morris to a second 10-day contract, the team announced last Sunday, as the local college star continues logging NBA minutes.
Morris, 22, a 6-foot-5 guard that played four seasons at Molloy, had signed a 10-day contract with the Hawks on Feb. 28. He had played 39 games for the Erie BayHawks, Atlanta’s NBA G League affiliate, averaging 12.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals in 31.4 minutes before the promotion.
He averaged 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 16.4 minutes during his first six games with the Hawks before signing a second 10-day contract with the team on March 11.
Morris’s father, Patrick, an assistant coach at Molloy who also runs Rockville Centre’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center, said going to a smaller Division-II college like Molloy allowed Jaylen to develop. He grew about four inches over his college career, Patrick said, adding muscle and a knowledge of the game that has helped him reach the NBA.
Jaylen averaged 19.9 points per game as a senior at Molloy, and was named to the DIICCA Men’s Basketball All-East Region Second Team. Last summer after the season, he attended some showcases in Las Vegas, but European teams didn’t take a chance on him, according to Patrick, because of what he called “the [Division] II stigma.”
“His goal was always just to be the best player that he could be,” Patrick said. “The opportunity didn’t come for him this summer, but we kept working it and he kept improving.”
He went to a tryout for the Long Island Nets, the G League affiliate for the Brooklyn Nets, before being drafted by the Erie BayHawks and subsequently signed to the Hawks. Patrick went to Atlanta to see Jaylen play in his second-ever NBA game against the Golden State Warriors. He was tasked with defending nine-time All Star Kevin Durant, and tallied seven points, five rebounds and two assists in the Hawks loss.
“That’s when it really hit home for me, like he’s really in the NBA,” Patrick said of his son’s matchup with the Warriors. “To be in the NBA and just sitting on the bench is one thing, but he’s actually getting minutes in crucial periods of the game.
“For a rookie,” he added, “whether you’re Division I, or Division II, or whatever, it’s big to just get an opportunity to play.”
Jaylen could not be reached before press time on Tuesday.