by Vlad Ionasc
Last Friday, the Cheshire Phoenix announced the re-signing of Jalen Hayes. I decided to find out more about the American forward by conducting an in-depth Q&A with the returnee.
Hayes embarked on his professional basketball journey in December 2018, when he signed with the Nix after graduating from Oakland University (NCAA Division 1) in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The 6’7 forward played 134 games (118 starts) for the Golden Grizzlies and averaged 18.8 points and 8.1 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 52.5% from the field in his senior year.
During his time at Oakland, Jalen shared the floor with some über talented players – most notably ex-Cleveland Cavaliers point-guard Kay Felder and current Miami Heat shooting-guard and Rookie of the Year contender, Kendrick Nunn.
Over the course of his first two seasons in the Phoenix blue & gold, Hayes appeared in 50 games (45 starts) in all competitions. The 25-year-old has established himself as one of the fan-favorites at the EPSV thanks to his incredible passion & skill exhibited on the court and his enchanting, warm character displayed off-the-court.
Ahead of his much-anticipated return, I wanted to take a closer look at Jalen’s career in order to find out what really makes the Phoenix star tick.
I also asked him if he prefers watching Scooby-Doo or Tom & Jerry.
Q & A below
Jalen, welcome back! How did you come to the decision of returning for another year with the Phoenix?
The combination of how much I enjoyed my time with the Nix plus the fan base made this decision pretty easy.
Now this will be your third year at the club, however, you’re actually yet to complete a full season because you signed in December during the 2018-19 season and obviously we all know what happened last season. How much are you looking forward to completing a full year in Phoenix colors?
Man it’s so crazy, just getting through the entire year is the goal right now hahahaha no but I’m excited to be able to start this upcoming year with a couple of returners and build this season up to what the Nix expectations are and that is hardware.
Your career highs in the BBL have all come against our local rivals – the Manchester Giants. I know that you play hard every game but just how much do you relish playing against those guys?
I think during the derby games I sense a little added motivation just because of the fact it’s a bragging rights sort of thing. So getting those wins against Manchester means a lot to us as a club.
Let’s rewind a little bit back to your time at Oakland University, what did you study while playing basketball?
I got a bachelor’s degree in Human Resources (HR).
You played a lot of games for the Golden Grizzlies, 134 to be exact. You started the majority of them too! What was the best thing about being a perennial starter on the team?
Awe man the college memories I have are seriously unforgettable! Coach Kampe at OU was so good man and I had to earn the starting spot that I eventually got throughout the rest of my career but once I earned Kampe’s trust in me that’s when I really started to evolve my game to another level, so going through the process of actually earning it and it not just being given to me was the best part about it.
What was it like playing with guys like Kay Felder and Kendrick Nunn?
It was a great experience man, those are my guys. When you’re in the moment you don’t really think about what the future will hold for each of us but seeing the success they’ve had in their careers is inspiring man. I’m so happy for them and they’ll always be my guys, along with the rest of my teammates I’ve ever had that I’ve been able to build a relationship with. It becomes more than just basketball and being teammates. It gets deeper than just that.
Did you struggle at any point during your time playing for the Golden Grizzlies and if so how did you overcome that?
I think the most challenging time for me was when I first got to campus and got sick right before my freshman year was supposed to start so I started second guessing if college ball was for me. It ended up being a blessing in disguise as I was able to redshirt that year, learn the college game, grow and become what I am today.
What are some of the differences that you’ve found between college basketball and professional basketball?
It’s more physical in the interior in pro basketball of course. But other little things such as different terminology, different base rules defensively because guys are more talented along with just other little details you have to adjust to that just makes the game to be played at a higher level.
In the early part of the 2019-20 season, I remember Dizzy saying that you’re one of the best-dressed members of the team…so what are some of your favourite fashion brands/designers?
Hahaha Diz was lying to you man, that is not true at all! I rarely get super dressed up, I’m more of a comfortable dresser but I love the Kappa brand. I’m not just saying that because they sponsor us, I seriously do like Kappa, a lot of their gear is really good. Also Nike of course and a couple of other brands who I’ll shout out once they start paying me ?
What car do you drive?
I’ve got a Ford Escape here back home.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Gotta go with dinner.
London or New York?
That’s tough! Gonna go with NY because I haven’t seen enough of London yet.
TV Shows or Movies?
TV Shows. Prison Break in particular. ?
Scooby-Doo or Tom and Jerry?
Hahaha Tom and Jerry definitely.
What is your favourite pre-match meal?
Back here in the States it was Chipotle but now just some pasta.
One country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t had the chance to yet?
If you weren’t a professional basketball player, what would you be?
I’d probably try being a chess grandmaster lol no lie. I love chess.
Do you see yourself being a coach in the future?
I don’t think I have the coaching qualities but I would consider maybe being a development specialist to help younger kids with their skill work but as far as coaching day to day, I don’t think I’d suit that role.
And finally, what is your message to the Nix Nation ahead of the 2020/21 season?
Nix Nation, I’m excited to be back playing in front of you guys this season coming up and expect me to have grown into a better player and person. I can’t wait to get back in front of you all! ??