Jalen Reynolds, currently on his second Euroleague season, looks in better shape than ever.
The 6’10” center from Detroit has been playing overseas since 2016, but it is with FC Bayern Munich that his impact on team success has grown significantly compared to his rookie season with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Reynolds credits the Israeli giants with giving him the first opportunity at the highest level of European basketball. However, in terms of playing time, true shooting percentages and points-rebounds averages, the 2020-21 campaign looks far more productive for him.
Jalen Reynolds played college ball at Xavier between 2012 and 2016 and then went straight to Italy, picked up by Recanati, a second division team. After four years and as many clubs, Italian coach Andrea Trinchieri welcomed him in Munich and the American center responded, assuming a starring role.
After a 83-76 loss to Panathinaikos OPAP in Athens, Reynolds had a quick chat with TalkBasket.net.
“Definitely, it was a tough game, but we knew it was not going to be easy. We kept fighting, but the better team won”, was his comment on PAO’s victory over Bayern.
Ben Bentil, the forward from Ghana, now with Panathinaikos, was one of four Big East players to have been selected in the 2016 NBA Draft and Reynolds knows it: “Definitely, I don’t take anything away from my brother. He’s a great player. I tip my hat to him and wish him all the best.”
Squaring off with Bentil was indeed something that he was looking forward to: “I played him in college. He’s very strong and athletic, a smart player. I love battling against my brother, but overall we will see them guys in Munich.”
Coming into that game, the Germans stood at 7-3, a tally unheard of in their recent history. However, self-complacency is not a feeling that holds sway in their locker-room: “Never be satisfied, always be hungry. Obviously, there’s a lot to be done. We have to stay together and climb this mountain”, Reynolds signals.
A real road warrior, Andrea Trinchieri’s team has registered lots of away victories: Fenerbahce, Anadolu Efes and Maccabi were some of the squads beaten by Reynolds and co. “Coach is always stressing defense. I think if we manage to do so, stopping easy plays, we can get the job done by any means necessary.”
For Jalen, this season is special. “It means everything to me”, he confirms. “It’s obviously difficult not having fans, but that’s my job. I have to make sure we win games and perform at the highest level.”
The Maccabi effect
If last year at Maccabi, the 27-year-old center had to fill Tarik Black’s shoes, this season he stood in for Greg Monroe.
“I just don’t think about it. I’m trying to focus on what I’m capable of. Greg Monroe is a really good player, but I care about what I can bring to the team. Being a starting center for the first time in my career feels good. It’s not about me. The situation is working for the team. Besides, I don’t only focus on starting. Whenever I come off the bench, I got to do my best.”
Last year, the Xavier standout had retired Euroleague legend and Maccabi Tel Aviv GM, Nikola Vujcic, show him the ropes at the low post.
“I learned to stay solid, take my time and execute at the right time. He definitely helped me improve. Just to follow in his footsteps was important. He was a great player. I tip my hat to Maccabi, man. Shout out to the organization, staff and players. I thank them for allowing me to come in there and showcase my talent.”
His constant improvement over the years could open some NBA doors for him in the future. “Sky is the limit”, he comments. “I will never stop fighting and believing. As of now, I haven’t made any plans for next summer, in terms of camps and tryouts. I’m trying to get better here and now.”
Since graduation, Reynolds had been training in Texas. Although no NBA contract came along, the experience was well worth his while. “I had the chance to develop my body and stay healthy. That’s a big issue when the summer comes. A lot of people think that it’s time to relax, but for me it’s just to recover my body and prepare for next season.”
In college, he was whistled for nine technical fouls in one year, many of which were just for celebrating a basket or a good defensive stop. Now, on his fifth professional season, Reynolds says that if he was to curb his enthusiasm, that would lessen his desire for basketball.
“I still keep that chip on my shoulder, man. Playing hard and showing your emotions is a part of the game and that’s going to stick with me for the rest of my career.“
It’s no secret that the Michigan native was named after Jalen Rose. However, the two of them haven’t even met. “I used to watch his games with my family when I was growing up. So, my mother named me after him”, Reynolds explains.
“We were training in the same facility because we’re both from Detroit, but I never got to talk to him. I texted him once, but he didn’t answer.“
If the younger Jalen manages to build on his latest performances, who could bet against him getting an answer very soon?