Ja Morant has burst onto the NBA scene and quickly established himself as one of the league’s most electrifying young stars. His jaw-dropping athleticism and highlight-reel dunks have made him a fan favorite for the Memphis Grizzlies. But before he was lighting up NBA arenas, Morant was honing his skills in college at Murray State University.
A Standout High School Career
Temetrius Jamel “Ja” Morant was born on August 10, 1999 in Dalzell, South Carolina. He attended Crestwood High School where he played basketball, football, and ran track. On the hardwood, Morant averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists per game as a senior, leading Crestwood to conference titles in 2015 and 2016. His stellar play earned him all-region honors in basketball.
Morant was also an excellent football player and was named region player of the year as a senior quarterback. He scored 35 touchdowns that season. Ultimately, Morant chose to pursue basketball in college over football.
Choosing Murray State
Although Morant drew interest from some mid-major programs like South Carolina State, he was not heavily recruited coming out of high school. Murray State University in Kentucky was one of the few schools to offer Morant a scholarship.
He committed to Murray State and head coach Matt McMahon, who promised Morant the opportunity to make an immediate impact as a freshman. Murray State, a member of the Ohio Valley Conference, was not well known for producing NBA talent. But it gave Morant a platform to showcase his skills.
A Record-Breaking College Career
Morant made Coach McMahon look like a genius right from the start. He averaged 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game as a freshman, becoming the first player in nearly 25 years to record a triple-double in his NCAA debut game with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
As a sophomore, Morant took his game to another level, averaging 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 10 assists while shooting 81% from the free throw line. He was named the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year and led the 12th-seeded Murray State Racers on a Cinderella run in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, upsetting 5th-seeded Marquette in the first round.
Morant’s junior campaign was cut short by declaring for the NBA draft, but he left Murray State as one of the greatest players in school history. He ranks second all-time in assists and is the only player in program history to be named an Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention.
NBA Draft Lottery Pick
After just two seasons at Murray State, Morant declared for the 2019 NBA Draft due to his exceptional play. He was projected as a top draft pick after being named a consensus All-American in 2019.
The Memphis Grizzlies selected Morant with the 2nd overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Morant became the highest draft pick in Murray State history and the first top-3 draft pick from the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Grizzlies hoped Morant could be their franchise point guard and help lead the team back to the playoffs. Those hopes became reality faster than anyone expected.
Rookie Season Success
Morant wasted no time proving he belonged in the NBA. He averaged 17.8 points, 7.3 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game in his rookie season, marking only the third time in league history a teenager averaged at least 17 points and 7 assists. Morant shot 47.7% from the field and was named the 2019-20 NBA Rookie of the Year.
The athletic point guard displayed incredible court vision and passing ability but also showcased his emphatic dunking that became a trademark. His signature alley-oop dunk off the glass against the Brooklyn Nets was one of the highlights of the year.
Morant led the Memphis Grizzlies to a 34-39 record and a spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament in 2020. After beating the Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis qualified for the postseason for the first time in four years. Morant helped the Grizzlies push the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers to six competitive games in the first round.
Becoming A Star
In just his second NBA season, Morant made his first All-Star team in 2021 and led Memphis back to the playoffs. He averaged 19.1 points, 7.4 assists, and 3.4 rebounds while improving his three-point shooting and defense. Morant eclipsed 30 points eight times during the regular season.
Morant took another leap in 2022, increasing his scoring average to 27.4 points per game while shooting 49.3% from the field. He was named a starter in his second All-Star game and earned All-NBA Second Team honors. Morant also wowed fans by winning the 2022 NBA Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend.
As Morant continues to develop, the sky is the limit for the electric point guard. At just 22 years old, he has already established himself as a franchise cornerstone for the Grizzlies. Memphis will lean heavily on their young star as they look to make a deep playoff run this season.
The Impact of Murray State
While Ja Morant is now starring on the NBA’s big stage, his path to stardom began at Murray State. He went from an unheralded recruit to a can’t-miss NBA prospect in just two seasons with the Racers.
Murray State provided a platform for Morant to develop and hone his incredible natural abilities. Under Coach McMahon, he learned how to control the tempo, run an offense, and make his teammates better. Morant credits his time at Murray State for preparing him for the NBA spotlight.
In return, Morant put Murray State basketball on the map and made them relevant in the world of college hoops. He helped shine a light on the Ohio Valley Conference and mid-major programs. Morant’s success has been invaluable publicity for the university.
Murray State will forever be known for producing Ja Morant. He may play for the Memphis Grizzlies now, but Racers fans will always fondly remember his electrifying college career.
Follow Ja Morant on Social Media
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FAQs About Ja Morant
Where is Ja Morant from?
Morant is from Dalzell, South Carolina. He was born and raised in the small town about 20 miles east of Columbia, SC.
What position does Ja Morant play?
Morant plays point guard. He is known for his playmaking ability, court vision, and athleticism.
How tall is Ja Morant?
Morant is listed at 6’3″ and 174 lbs. His wingspan and leaping ability help make up for his relatively average size at the point guard position.
When was Ja Morant drafted?
The Memphis Grizzlies selected Morant with the 2nd overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after one breakout season at Murray State.
What number does Ja Morant wear?
Morant has worn #12 for both Murray State and the Memphis Grizzlies.
What is Ja Morant’s nickname?
Morant’s most popular nickname is “12,” referring to his jersey number. He’s also been called “JaMo” and “Temetrius Jamel Morant” which is his full name.