Even though his life for the last five years has been set up for this moment, electrifying guard Jalen Green is still trying to absorb how his life has changed.
The youngster, who just turned 19 in February, was taken No.2 overall in last week’s NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets. Suddenly, the weight and expectations of the franchise are on his shoulders.
“I don’t think it’s hit me yet,” Green said. “It will probably hit me when we get into practice. That feeling walking the stage was crazy. I kind of blacked out. It’s a surreal moment.”
Oddly enough, that moment when his name was called had been in motion since Green was 14 and the basketball world could see he was special. Green was one of the most prolific players during his time at California’s Prolific Prep where during his senior year in 2019-20 he ascended to every major accolade including being named a McDonald’s American and receiving the ranking as the No.1 high school prospect in the Class of 2020 after averaging 31.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists that year.
With colleges hovering, Green picked the path less traveled, spending last season with the NBA G League Ignite. He was the first player to sign with Ignite, which is a team dedicated to the development and mentorship of the top young basketball prospects ahead of the NBA Draft.
And Green didn’t disappoint there either, averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.53 steals in 15 games with Ignite.
As experience and professionalism go, Green has been prepared to come in to be the impact young star the Rockets desperately need.
“It comes with a lot of attention and expectations,” Green said of being the Rockets organization’s first No.2 overall pick since 1970 when Rudy Tomjanovich was taken. “I set high expectations for myself and goals for myself I want to achieve. I don’t let anybody block my path to my goals and what I want to achieve.”
Green is one of four first-round picks the Rockets took in the recent draft as the organization continues the slow rebuild after the departure of stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook this past season. The Rockets also took post player Alperen Sengun (No.16), forward Usman Garuba (No.23) and guard Josh Christopher (No.24) in a night that’s being hailed as a great start for new general manager Rafael Stone and coach Stephen Silas.
“All these guys, I just think they’re really, really talented, and they’re all players who do things already,” Stone said. “They have aspects of their game where … I think they’re likely to already be good NBA players. And so, given their age — they’re all 19 — that’s really exciting because I think they’re at an age where you can really, really improve.”
Green for sure has his sights set on being the best for himself and his new teammates.
“I work hard, stay in the gym and trust my work,” he said. “Obviously (All-Star and All-Defensive player) is something I want to be.
“With those expectations for myself, I think I can lead going into the players and getting more wins. We are all trying to come in here and change the game and try to make an impact off the top and try to win.”