Jordan Schakel, a sharpshooting wing from the San Diego State Aztecs, could be one of the biggest sleepers in the 2021 NBA draft.
Among all players 6-foot-6 or taller who played at least 50 percent of all possible minutes for their team during their tenure in college, he and Gary Trent Jr. are the only players since 2008-09 to record a career three-point percentage above 40 percent with a free-throw percentage above 85 percent and turnover rate below 10 percent.
He recently caught up with HoopsHype to discuss his biggest strengths and his work ethic. Schakel also touched on his interest in the UFC, growing up around Hollywood stardom and what he learned during a valuable pick-up run with Rico Hines.
Please note this interview was minorly edited in its transcript for clarity.
What were some of the ways you were able to grow from playing during a pandemic?
Jordan Schakel: I think over the past year, with COVID-19 and everything, there was a lot of protocol in San Diego. We weren’t allowed to shoot in the gym. While it was hard during the moment, it helped me build confidence knowing that I’ve been playing basketball my whole life. I can trust that I’ve been doing this since third grade. I know how to shoot a basketball. I became so much more confident just knowing that I put years and years of work into it. All shooters like going to the gym early and get reps – I remember reading about Ray Allen and he loves his routine. I think that being able to adapt on the fly and not need your routine is beneficial. That was the biggest growth I had this year.
You are such an insanely efficient player. How do you describe your game?
It's really easy to see why Jordan Schakel was the #1 catch & shoot player in the country this season at San Diego State pic.twitter.com/FEOkGQKkvP
— Mavs / Magic Draft (@MavsDraft) July 14, 2021
JS: As a young kid, I always played on winning teams. To be on a winning team, you have to take good shots. You need those shots to go in. As my career progressed, I’ve always had a good feel for whether or not my shot would contribute to winning for my team. My senior year was the culmination of that. I knew the shots that I really liked. I got to my spots on the floor in places where I was confident I could knock them down. I’m very comfortable and confident making any type of shot. For most of college, I was just shooting a lot of spot-ups and a lot of lifts off the pick and roll and a lot of drifts to the corner.
But last year, they were running a lot of floppy screens for me. I was able to put my head under the basket and lose my defender and come out on the perimeter and on the wing mostly. I hit some big shots doing that. If I know I’m not going to get many shot attempts, I know I have to make them count. So then senior year, when I got more attempts, it was able to open up my game. I was able to take the midrange pull-up, which is a shot that I’ve been shooting my whole life. I’m extremely confident in it. I also love my floater and my stepback. I was able to show a lot of what I could do during my senior year. I still have more that I can show, though. I’m able to create my shot off the dribble. I’ve gotten a lot better at that during pre-draft.
What goes into the winning mentality that you have developed over the years?
JS: I played against Chino Hills during my junior year of high school. They had Lonzo Ball, LaMelo Ball, LiAngelo Ball, Onyeka Okongwu and Eli Scott. That team was just so talented and we had a chance to win during their undefeated season. It opened up my eyes about super competitive competition. We beat them my senior year when they had everyone except Lonzo. We beat Mater Dei High School when they had Bol Bol. We beat Sierra Canyon when they had Marvin Bagley III.
We ran the table and the extreme focus that it took to do that helped me because I brought that to San Diego State. It started to show by the time that I was a junior in college when I had a bigger role. I was helping guys out in practice and let them know what was good enough and what wasn’t. I’ve had a winning background and I know the extra work and the focus that it takes to win at the highest level.
Do you view yourself as a bit of an underdog and if so, how does that fuel you?
JS: Yeah, I kind of like being the underdog. I’ve been that way my whole life. People have doubted me. This one guy said I’d never play varsity basketball. He said I was a junior varsity player. I worked hard to prove him wrong. It’s very motivating to know that somebody counts you out. To go in and put in the work and prove someone wrong, and prove to yourself that you can play at the level that people say you can’t, that’s the most gratifying feeling. You’ve proved it to yourself that you can do it. You can live with that for the rest of your life. You’ve just proven something that somebody else didn’t see in you and you went in and did it. That’s something that drives me and something I know I can always look back on and say, man, this guy thought that I was never going to play varsity basketball? Look how much more I did than even that.
When you talk to NBA teams, what’s your pitch on why they should add you to their roster?
JS: I try to be extremely professional and let them know that I’m somebody who is going to be on time, hardworking and committed. I’m going to bring positivity to the locker room and be a locker room guy. On top of my shooting, I tell them I’m a winning player. I don’t accept losing. I’ve won at every stop of my life. I’m going to do that for their team. I want to win every game we play in this workout. If they interview me before the workout, I tell them I want to win whatever scrimmage and show them that I’m a winning player. I’ll do the extra things like dive on the floor for loose balls and pick a teammate up and just be tough. I just want to help the organization.
When you’re watching the playoffs, what role do you see yourself playing in those games?
JS: I’m a guy who can come in and make shots and play hard on defense like Cameron Johnson on the Phoenix Suns. Joe Harris has a larger role for the Brooklyn Nets but I see him as a shot-maker who plays hard and plays the right way. Somebody like Bruce Brown from the Nets doesn’t shoot like I do but he plays so hard. He fills a role that they need even though it may not be his position. I’ve done that before in my career, too. I’m somebody who can come in and do whatever the coach asks me to do and do it to the best of my abilities. I make my free throws. I make open shots. I have a low turnover rate.
What are some of the things that you like to do when you’re not on the floor?
JS: Yeah, living in San Diego, they have the best beaches. I like to go surfing out there. I’d never surfed before but I like to go surfing now. I just started trying to get out of my comfort zone. When we were in Chicago, I went into that 360 building and went on the tilt where you hang on to a railing and it takes you over the ledge and you look straight down. I’m not really somebody that loves heights so it was pretty scary. But I was just trying to face my fears. I want to go skydiving at some point — if the team lets me, of course. [Laughs] I don’t really play video games. I like to read and keep myself busy and be outside and enjoy nature. Hopefully, I’m in a situation where I can get a dog in the next few years so I can be outside walking my dog. I like watching UFC.
Oh, that’s interesting. Who is your favorite fighter in the UFC right now?
JS: My favorite fighter is Israel Adesanya. I actually got to go to his fight a couple weeks ago in Phoenix. It was pretty cool to see him live. I really study his fights. He’s in a division where a lot of guys are heavier in weight than he is. He looks really skinny and you might not take him as a fighter but he’s the world champion right now because he’s just super technical about what he does. He makes sure that every time he strikes, he makes contact. He aims and fires, he says doesn’t just hold down the trigger and pray that it connects. I actually look up to him in basketball because I can relate to him. I’m not the biggest or strongest guy but I try to make my shots count. I try to make my strikes count. That’s somebody I try to model my game after even though he’s not a basketball player.
Even if you don’t hear your name on the night of the draft, how will you fight to make the NBA?
JS: A of couple years ago, I was at the UCLA runs with Rico Hines. He looked at everyone in the gym after all the superstars left and he told us we had to take the hard route. We had to take the path that is more treacherous. He said none of us were going to be lottery picks. We are going to have to fight for everything that we get. I’ve taken that to heart. I’m grateful for everything that I have but I know I have to fight for opportunities and prove that I should be there time and time again.
I’m just willing to bet on myself. I really pride myself on being a hard worker. If you give me a shot, I’m going to outwork everybody. I’ll outlast them. I’ll take better care of my body. I’ll be there when you need me. I’ll do all the things that guys don’t want to do. I’ll be able to show a team that I believe in their organization.
Tell me a little bit more about your family and growing up in Los Angeles.
JS: Both my parents went to USC. My mom was an All-American volleyball player so her name is still up in the Galen Center. My dad was a cyclist. I have what basketball players need, I have endurance from my dad and the fast-twitch from my mom. My uncle is an actor. His name is Wolfgang Bodison. He was in A Few Good Men (1992) and Akeelah and the Bee (2006). I’ve just been in L.A. my whole life. I don’t think the spotlight or being famous would bother me. I’ve grown up around that. I think that’s something people might not know about me.