Jaron Blossomgame arrived at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas nearly two months ago to start his pre-draft training. It didn’t take the former Clemson forward long to impress his fellow draft prospects.
“Oh man, he’s, like, a freaking animal,” said former Creighton center Justin Patton, who’s projected to go just outside the lottery. “He’s my role model. He’s one of the older guys and he wants to be the best at everything every single day. He’s been helping me out with that. And it’s just fun watching him play. He’s one of the craziest athletes that I’ve ever seen, so when he goes up and dunks the ball, he might do something you just don’t see often. It’s been cool to see him work out every single day.”
Blossomgame has really enjoyed the pre-draft process and how it’s allowed him to display his game.
“It’s been great,” Blossomgame told HoopsHype. “Training out here in Las Vegas has prepared for me the NBA combine and everything I’m going through. We do two on-court sessions and one weight-room session every day, and it’s been good. The combine was a great experience as well. I played five-on-five, and I felt like I did really well. I met with eight teams at the combine. The interviews went really well. I think that’s one of my strengths and I think they were really beneficial for me. The pre-draft process has been good so far.”
For those who have followed Blossomgame’s collegiate career, they likely aren’t surprised to hear that he’s thriving as he prepares for the 2017 NBA Draft.
Over his final two seasons at Clemson, he averaged 18.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and .8 steals while shooting 50.5 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from three-point range.
“He’s by far the hardest working and most competitive guy that I’ve been around or played with in my life,” Clemson teammate Donte Grantham said. “He has an incredible work ethic and with his mentality, he won’t be denied. Throughout the season, he would constantly encourage guys to keep fighting and stay mentally strong – especially through the tough stretches we faced in the ACC. He’s always willing to help out younger dudes and give them advice to better their game. He was the perfect example of leading by example. I had a great experience playing with him. He talked me through some tough stretches and helped me believe that I was great and the team was great even when things weren’t going my way. And Jaron is an even better person off the floor. He shows the utmost respect for people and he’s always willing to help others if needed. Always.”
Blossomgame is 23 years old, but he looks at that as a positive rather than a negative.
“A few teams asked about my age and what I thought about it; my response was that this season’s Rookie of the Year could be Malcolm Brogdon, a five-year guy from Virginia who is 24 years old right now,” Blossomgame said. “I don’t think age really matters. I think the older guys are more seasoned and ready to play right away, and I think our bodies are more capable of playing in the NBA immediately. I look at another guy from last year’s draft, Taurean Prince, who had an outstanding year for the Atlanta Hawks and he was a four-year guy too. I think some people put a negative spin on age, but I think it can definitely help determine which players are going to be most successful immediately.
“I told every team that what Andre Iguodala does for the Warriors right now is something that I could do for NBA teams next year. When he comes in, he defends multiple positions, takes and makes open threes, scores in transition, gets to the foul line and just plays at a high level. Those are all things that I do really, really well. I can use my versatility to guard ones, twos, threes and fours. I can shoot the ball and stretch the floor. And I’m always going to be a guy who plays hard, who does things to help a team win.”
Not only is Blossomgame more prepared than his NBA peers because of his college experience, he also had the opportunity to test the NBA draft waters last year – participating in the combine and several workouts. That let him know what to expect during this second time around.
“I’m not nervous about anything now that I’ve seen it all,” Blossomgame said. “I went to the NBA combine last year and did well in the five-on-five and I also did seven workouts. So this year, I knew what to expect at the combine, I knew what to expect in five-on-five and I knew what to expect in the workouts. Because of that, I’ve been able to just play free. I don’t have anything to worry about, so I’m just able to play my game and have fun. I have about 12 workouts this year. Going into them, because I know what they’ll be like, I’m confident and I can prepare. Everything I’m doing in Las Vegas is in preparation for the workouts since I know what to expect.
“I’m definitely using my versatility in workouts. At the combine, we switched one through five so I was a guarding a 7’2 kid on one play and then 5’11 Frank Mason III off of a ball screen on the next play. My versatility is definitely a strength of mine in these workouts and I’m also shooting the ball at a high level during my workouts. I think I’m showing what I can contribute at the next level.
Along with Iguodala, Blossomgame has also studied the emergence of San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard.
“A few years ago, I used to compare myself to Kawhi Leonard, but now he’s gotten so good that it’s hard to compare yourself to him,” Blossomgame said with a laugh. “I’ve always studied him since we’re similar in size and similar in stature. But what’s interesting about him was that, as a prospect coming out of college, the main question was, ‘Can he shoot?’ He played the four predominantly in college and struggled to shoot. I mean, he shot 20 percent from three one year and 29 percent the next year. I shot 20 percent in my freshman year, 28 percent in my sophomore year and then I had a jump to 45 percent my junior year. So I feel we have some similarities considering how versatile we are and the things we can bring to a team. He’s definitely a guy I’ve watched and compared myself to in recent years.”
As his former teammate Grantham touched on, Blossomgame is constantly helping and respecting others. This was on display throughout his time at Clemson. For example, he was very involved with a program called ClemsonLIFE, which is “designed for students with intellectual disabilities who desire a postsecondary experience on a college campus.” He volunteered with the program and maintained close friendships with many of the individuals he met. Meghan Kopsic, one of the teachers who runs ClemsonLIFE, was extremely impressed by Blossomgame’s character.
“The main thing that sticks out to me about Jaron is his humility,” Kopsic said. “Some people wanted to put him on a pedestal because of who he is and he constantly took himself off that pedestal. The way that he would interact with my students, it’s hard to even explain. I had a hard time believing he was at the NBA combine because he just doesn’t talk about it or act any different. He’s so humble.
“He did a lot of volunteer work for us and just because of who he is and how well he’s known around campus, it was a huge deal that he gave our students so much of his time. One of the main things he did at ClemsonLIFE was organizing a practice for our students and he got the entire basketball team involved. It was really neat. Jaron organized the whole thing and he did such a great job.”
“The students in ClemsonLIFE love him and he loves them,” Clemson President Jim Clements said. “I have a daughter with special needs and he’s always been great to her as well. It says a lot about him because he cares about a lot of people. He gives the ClemsonLIFE students a lot of love and attention. My daughter, Grace, is very fond of him as a person. When Jaron organized the event with ClemsonLIFE and the whole basketball team, my daughter went even though she’s only in high school. She really thinks the world of Jaron. He’s an amazing guy and an amazing leader. He has a really energetic, charismatic personality and he was beloved on campus.”
Kopsic and Blossomgame worked together to surprise one of her students Robert Lewis, a Clemson student with Down Syndrome. Lewis loves basketball and served as his high school team’s manager in Nashville, making national headlines when his coach gave him a chance to play and he hit a game-ending three-pointer.
“I sent Jaron a video of Robert cheering him on and Jaron texted back, ‘Where are you right now? I have to meet him!’ So we surprised Robert and they met,” Kopsic said. “But while I helped set that up, Jaron continued the friendship with Robert. He would go over to Robert’s apartment on campus on a Sunday night after practice and hang out with him. I’d always get SnapChats of them hanging out together. He’s so humble and it continues to blow me away.”
Blossomgame has been working his entire life to have a shot at the NBA and it seems inevitable that he’ll hear his name called in two weeks. It’s surreal, but he’s ready.
“It would be a dream come true,” Blossomgame said. “Every little kid who picks up a basketball and plays this game has that dream of playing in the NBA. So to be this close, weeks away, is definitely a special feeling. I’m taking it day by day, just trying to win each workout, each rep, each set. That stuff really matters. I know I have a big couple of weeks coming up and I’m super excited for it and super blessed to be in this position.”