June 21st, 2018 – A low murmur grips the Barclays Center as the last couple of fans trickle into the upper level. Down on the ground Jaren Jackson Jr. is fiddling with his rose gold suit jacket. A couple of tables over Collin Sexton is sitting with his family and friends. Towards the front Miles Bridges is sitting next to his mother talking with his college coach Tom Izzo. Tonight Adam Silver will be announcing where the next phase of these young athletes careers will begin. It is an emotional night for all those involved full of happy tears and priceless reactions when their name is called.
Miles immediately embraced his mom, Jaren beamed with pride as he stood up pumping his fist, and Collin shook up with his family and friends before making his way to the stage. It marked the culmination of a long journey that began when these young ballers first stepped onto the basketball court. It’s a signal that all the time spent in the gym, the countless reps in the weight room, and all the nights spent dissecting film was worth it.
Draft night was a dream come true for Miles, who has idolized NBA players as a kid. “I couldn’t see myself doing any other job, so I’m just happy to be in this situation.” For Jaren there was simply no way he could emotionally prepare himself for hearing his name called. “When it finally happens you’re like whoa, there are no words to describe it. I was just trying not to trip on the way up.” Collin Sexton was anxious for most of draft night wondering who was going to take a chance on him. When it was announced he was heading to Cleveland, relief flooded through him. “It was the best feeling ever because of all the smiling faces, all the hard times I faced getting here, for me to hear my name called was big.”
As they get settled in their new cities with their new teams, each one of them is ready to prove they belong in this league. With his ability to switch onto guards while still being able to protect the rim at an elite level, Jaren was seemingly built for the modern NBA. On offense, his multi-faceted game includes the oh-so important ability to step out and consistently knock down the three-ball. Despite his immense talent, Jaren still feels he needs to prove he was worthy of the No. 4 overall pick to the team’s veterans. He also wants to show the fans what he’s made of. “Defense-first attitude, just going out there and making sure you make people feel your presence. Don’t try to hide during the game, always try to be active, keep moving, and be aggressive.”
Collin is coming to a team that saw its best player leave in free agency. Despite this, Collin is ready to step up and give the people of Cleveland someone new to root for. “Each and every game, I’m going to bring that energy, that same grit – I’m just going to go out there and play my hardest.” In college Collin earned the reputation as someone who was going to bring it every night. He was a dogged defender who harassed the opposing team’s guards all over the floor. On offense his speed and quickness allowed him to get to the rim with ease while also opening up easy shots for his teammates. Cavalier’s fans hope that tenacity and ferociousness will carry their team back to the playoffs.
Miles could have left Michigan State after his freshman season, but stayed because he felt he had unfinished business. By returning for his sophomore season, he showed the previous year’s achievements were no fluke. A versatile wing with through the-roof-hops, a buttery stroke, and the ability to defend multiple positions, Miles is ready to terrify opponents on both ends of the court. He’s hoping, that by bringing a winning attitude and a lot of energy, he can help Charlotte get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 which would surely excite the fan base. “Fans can expect intensity and a lot of energy – I like to get the crowd going and just do anything to win.”
Their passion and love for basketball all began when they young. As kids all three would tear through the Eastbay magazine looking at all the new shoe releases. Collin said, “I couldn’t wait to see what was new so I could see if my parents would buy me one of the shoes.” Collin also played in the Eastbay X Ballislife All-American Game with Miles. Miles described going from that game to becoming one of cover athletes of Eastbay as a “dream come true,” and Jaren said the experience was “mind-blowing.” It’s been a remarkable ride for these rookies who are now competing against the very best players.
With their incredible work ethic and intense dedication, there are no limits to how good they can be.