Former UMBC star Jairus Lyles will play for the Utah Jazz during the 2018 NBA Summer League.
Lyles, who helped his school make history as the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed, scored 28 points while shooting 9-for-11 from the field. Lyles averaged 20.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game this season. Lyles made 2.4 three-pointers per game and shot 39 percent from long distance.
He also led the American East Conference in defensive win shares last season. Overall, his career player efficiency rating ranks No. 4 overall in conference history.
HoopsHype spoke with the 22-year-old about his collegiate career and what’s next for him.
You had an incredibly successful collegiate experience, especially in the NCAA Tournament. What were you feeling playing on such a big stage?
Jairus Lyles: It was an incredible experience in front of so many people against such a high-caliber team. I think it defined our whole season and our team. We had fun and played for each other and we were very confident. I was asked to be the leader of our team and it was amazing. Stephen Curry reached out and sent us special edition shoes that no one else had yet. The creators of the video game Fortnite talked to us and gave us some gear, too. We got to meet Grant Hill and a lot of the other NBA legends.
What will you remember when you think about your March Madness experience?
JL: After the game in the locker room, when we put the UMBC strip on the next round, that was such a beautiful moment.
What did it mean for your conference to go out there and get such a big win? You made history beating the No. 1 seed!
JL: Anytime you can win in front of that many people, it shoots up your attendance and exposure at the school. All the stuff was going on in the NCAA with the scandals, so it gave people a chance to take their minds off the negative and really appreciate what happened. We went into that game just thinking we were going to win. We knew we could win. We were confident and believed in one another. That’s one of the reasons I came back to UMBC, I knew we had a really good team with a chance of winning the American East. That was our vision. It wasn’t a surprise to make the tournament.
It put you in such a great situation for the next level, too. How much did it help you with your chances as a pro?
JL: It gave me a lot and really gave me so many new opportunities. It was the first time a lot of people, especially NBA scouts, saw me play. You can really evaluate what guys are made of and it helped me showcase my talent in front of people who were watching for the first time.
How did you prepare for your potential future in the NBA this summer?
JL: Those NBA workouts were really gruesome, but they are really good. I was at the IMG Academy campus training for about a month. I worked out with the Wizards, Raptors, Hornets, Trail Blazers and Grizzlies. They want you to come in there and battle. That is the biggest thing: competition through fatigue. I’ve been able to show I’m able to defend the ball and score. I’m able to fight and battle, mentally and physically.
What did you learn while you are at IMG and how did it help you this offseason?
JL: I had an on-court trainer, Rashad Phillips, who went to college in Detroit. I was training with him and he had a weight trainer as well as someone else who worked with me on speed, agility, strength and lower body. Five days a week, I woke up early in the morning and went to the training room and went to the turf and then to the court and then weightlifting. I was there with Ben Lammers (Georgia Tech) and the younger brother of Enes Kanter, who is named Kerem Kanter (Xavier) as well. Mostly, I focused on getting in shape and sharpening the skills I already had. I also learned how to create space to use my size well.
What kind of feedback did you get from trainers and the teams that you met with?
JL: I was told to work more on the pick-and-roll and be more of a point guard. I’m getting better at finding the right man and reading the right play. There is a lot of pick-and-roll at the next level so I want to perfect hitting the big when he’s on the roll. I’m working on defending the screen and keeping my man in front of me. You do a lot of pick-and-roll in college but it can feel different because the personnel is different and there’s so much space on the NBA floor. The screens are usually set higher so there’s a different aspect to it.
You were able to score a ton while in college. How will that translate to the next level?
JL: I’m someone who can put the ball in the hoop. I can shoot the three. I’ve been working from the NBA distance. My speed and handles on the ball with more space will help me get to the rim and create my own shot. I can also create shots for other people. My main focus is coming in and just letting my team know that I can do whatever they need me to do, whether it’s getting my teammates better in practice or watching extra film. Teams already knew that I can score so they wanted to see the other things that I can do — whether it’s defending or keeping the ball in front of me. Scoring was able to get me these opportunities and get my foot in the door because I was able to do it so much in college. But it’s the extra things that will stick with me in the league.
What are some goals you’ve set for yourself? You’ve done a ton in college so what’s next?
JL: Of course I want to reach the NBA and play at the next level. But I just want to get better every day. I’ve put myself in the type of situation to play professional basketball, whether it’s in the NBA or the G League or overseas somewhere. I just want to keep putting myself in these situations where I can stay and play. I haven’t been overseas; the first time I left the United States was to work out for the Raptors. I’m down for the challenge if that’s where my next chance will be.
What are some things people don’t know about you that can get people excited?
JL: I’m a high-character guy and I won’t get in trouble. I handle my business. I love fashion. I hope to get into fashion and acting one day. I also designed shirts when I was younger. I love high-end brands like Gucci, FENDI and my favorite brand right now is Saint Laurent. Fashion has become so huge in the NBA.
What kind of music do you listen to? Who are some of your favorites?
JL: My favorite artist right now is Young Thug. He’s different and the way he puts music together, you have to wonder how he does that. He has such a different flow on so many different types of beats. It’s cool to see his art and how he has evolved as a rapper. I love that he’s not afraid to do anything with fashion.