With each member of the Baylor Men’s Basketball program I’ve had the chance to sit down and chat with I leave more and more impressed with the men in our program. This continued when I got the opportunity to visit with a newcomer on this year’s roster, Jalen Bridges. Let me tell you, there may not be a more chill and cool dude in the NCAA.
Bridges transferred to Baylor this offseason after starting his career at West Virginia University. His decision to transfer was a weighty one, as it meant living outside the state of West Virginia for the first time in his life. Surrounded by a great support system, Bridges moved to Waco earlier this year and is ready to make an instant impact both on and off the court for the Bears.
I am extremely thankful for Jalen’s willingness to spend time talking and his vulnerability in sharing some parts of his life and basketball story. Below is a link to a Podcast containing the full interview with Bridges...a caveat, there were some audio issues in the beginning and briefly around the 18 minute mark. Thankfully the audio issues were primarily while I was asking questions, and not when Jalen is sharing answers. Full interview Q&A is below the link to the pod.
Take some time to get to know Jalen Bridges, I promise you it’s worth it!
Link to the Pod
Q1) For each of these sit downs I’ve done so far I’ve always started just by asking the question on the top of my mind. So this is a pretty hard hitting question to jump right in. For the first day of classes this semester the Baylor MBB team Twitter account tweeted everyone’s first day of class fits. You were rocking a Supreme Sic ‘Em tee. Is that a piece you’ve had or did you dig for that once you transferred to Baylor?
A1) “I just randomly happened to be on StockX one day and I typed in Supreme. It was literally the first shirt that popped up. I was like ‘Oh I need this.’ I just committed to Baylor, this is what everybody says. So I definitely need that shirt, and that’s just how it went.”
Q2) It seems like your family is really important to you. You mentioned in your intro video on the Baylor MBB Twitter that you would watch your dad play pickup and work out with your dad, can you just share a little bit about that support system and how that has shaped you into the man you are today?
A2) “We used to wake up before school at like 5:45 and go get a quick lift in or get some shots up. Then I would go to school for the day and go to practice after school, get a little meal, and then right back in the gym. That was basically an everyday routine.
And then as far as my other supporters, my mom she used to drive me around everywhere and basically funded my dream. And now to see my dreams come to fruition I could never repay them no matter how much I can make through this game. I could never repay them for their time. That’s the one thing that stands out about them, they were very selfless. They would always put me first, and what I wanted to do. So I thank them for that.”
Q3) Did your parents come with you on your recruiting visit? How closely are you able to keep in touch with them today?
A3) “They came out on the visit. Right now my mom is in Florida doing travel nursing and my dad is in West Virginia, but it was cool. We were at Alabama before we came to Baylor and my mom wasn’t there. But she ended up flying out to Waco and meeting us.”
Jalen went on to say that mom being at the Baylor visit was the selling point for him to go to Baylor.
Q4) You were the number 1 ranked player in the class of 2020 coming out of the state of West Virginia, what was your recruiting process in high school like and how did you originally decide on playing at WVU?
A4) “Honestly West Virginia didn’t start recruiting me heavily until my Junior year of high school. Before that I never really was a fan of them so I’m not quite sure how I ended up there. It was honestly crazy, having over 50 coaches fighting for my time, calling me every day. It was stressful.
But at the same time a lot of people would’ve loved to have been in the position to receive one phone call. It was cool, it was a great experience and I’m thankful for it. Even though my time at West Virginia wasn’t what I wanted it to be, I’m still grateful for it. It helped me a lot and made me learn a lot.”
Q5) That’s an interesting perspective saying how stressful it was having all of those coaching calling you, but how you were appreciative for it. Was it tough to be a normal high school kid while that was going on?
A5) “I had to sacrifice a lot, like going out and having fun with my friends. Had to be in the gym because someone else is out there working. The 5:45 am wake ups were bad, I honestly don’t know how I used to do that. Dreams don’t work unless you do. That’s one of my favorite sayings.”
Q6) There’ve been a handful of articles and videos on what went into the decision for you to transfer from WVU. I don’t really want to make you get into all that again, but after you decided to transfer what ultimately went into the decision to come to Baylor, what was that transfer process like, and what were you looking for in your next school?
A6) “My main thing was skill development. And that is one of the things that the coaches and this staff do really well. Every player has an assigned GA (grad assistant) that we get in the gym with every day and work out with. Another thing is I wanted a family environment. I already knew three players on the roster. I played AAU with Zach Loveday. Flo was on the 17U AAU team when I was 15U. Dale went to Fairmont State and I’m from Fairmont so we all used to run into each other. There was some comfortability going into the decision, you know it already felt like home. Home away from home.”
Q7) We’re those guys hitting you up and texting you when you entered the portal to try and get you to come to Baylor?
A7) “I talked to Zach a little bit because I was closest with him because I had played with him. But I would say Keyonte also reached out because one of my best friends at West Virginia, his best friend is Keyonte’s cousin. So we all used to be on the phone and Keyonte called him one day and was like ‘What’s JB on, tell him to come to Baylor.’ But it was a really easy decision when it came down to it honestly.”
Q8) What was Coach Drew and the staff like throughout your recruiting?
A8) “He’s a great dude. He brings it every single day. It makes you want to be that way, be energetic, be giddy. Fun fact, when I committed to Baylor he jumped into my arms, literally. I walked around the corner and he was waiting there like ‘Are you in?’ I said ‘Yeah coach I think I’m a Bear.’ And he literally jumped into my arms. Another fun fact when I committed I said we had to get this old ugly printer out of Tweety’s office. And when I got to campus it wasn’t there; so the staff held up their end of the bargain.”
Q9) You were born and raised in WV, is Waco the first place you have lived outside of WV?
A9) “Where I was born is this place called Bridgeport, which is probably like 45 minutes from Morgantown. Then in 5th grade I moved to Fairmont which is like 15-20 minutes from Morgantown. So all I really did was move up the interstate little by little. It’s definitely different not living in West Virginia, but I like it more. It’s a lot warmer which is a lot more my thing.”
Q10) How has the transition been to move away from home and how has the Baylor MBB family helped you in that life transition?
A10) “First and foremost my girlfriend moved out here with me so she’s kind of helped keep me level and keep my head on straight. As far as teammates and coaches go it’s like a family. I would honestly consider them my brothers. I would run through a wall for them and I’ve only known them for five or six months. I’m just excited to be here. They’ve made it feel like home away from home. They’ve given me everything I could’ve asked for in a team. Everyone wants to be the best they can be, everyone wants to be an NBA player. It’s completely different from the situation I was in last year.”
Q11) That video of you working the clinic or camp with the kids went viral for you telling every kid to shoot it, is working kids clinics and camps something you’ve done before? And do you enjoy things like that, to give back to the community and working with kids?
A11) “We used to do camps all the time at West Virginia. Like father son camps, or fantasy camps where old men would come back and play and we would coach them. So I just have gotten used to camps. I had my own camp at home last summer. It’s just always good to give the kids a positive role model. You know not a lot of kids don’t have that, who else do they have to look up to except for us if they want to do something with this game. Nobody is really going to believe in you from a young age. So coming from us just instilling it in them from a young age that if you work hard and stay committed to the grind everything really will take care of itself. That’s a big thing to hear as a kid, so I just try to be a positive influence.”
Q12) Did you go to camps as a kid, and is that a reason you wanted to start your own camp and be involved in that way?
A12) “My coach Deon Dobbs had an annual camp. His son is my best friend in life, he plays at Fairmont State, we did the camp together. We just would take off his dad’s camp style, it was a great experience honestly.”
Q13) Are there any main things culturally that stick out to you so far about Coach Drew and his staff that have made you feel that much more confident in your decision to transfer to Baylor?
A13) “The main thing that sticks out to me is that everyone is a little bit more positive. It’s not coaches versus players, it’s us together versus whatever problem there is. We will talk through it and be respectful to each other. That’s what a team does and what a team is.”
Q14) Do you feel like you’ve developed as a man since coming to Baylor?
A14) “Yeah absolutely. I went through a really hard time last year. I haven’t lost that many games in my career. It was tough, I was all over the place. It’s just nice to be able to reset and be in a good headspace. Just being happy and having fun playing basketball again honestly.”
Q15) Pivoting to on court basketball stuff for a few minutes. I just have to ask, does it feel pretty cool to just body someone on a dunk? Like you put that guy from Brazil on a poster in Globl jam. For a guy who’s literally never postered someone can you just explain what that’s like? And also how was the full Globl Jam experience?
A15) “Any time you dunk on somebody it’s an adrenaline rush. It just makes you want to do more, it’s a boost to you. Globl Jam was a good experience for us, especially all the new guys we have. Just playing in games together to build that camaraderie. Even the guys who weren’t playing were still on the trip and able to bond. You know we went and did fun stuff in Canada. It was a great trip, basketball and team bonding wise.”
Q16) How would you describe your game, and what are you looking to bring to Baylor this season?
A16) “I feel like what sticks out is my shooting. But I feel like I am more like a Swiss Army Knife. I can do basically anything. I can shoot, I can guard, I can pass, I can dribble, I can get rebounds, I can make the dirty winning plays. All I do is just try and give my team a chance to win. I don’t care if I’m scoring 25 points or 0 points. As long as my team wins I’m happy at the end of the day.”
Q17) What are some of your main passions outside of basketball, hobbies, or things you enjoy doing in Waco?
A17) “I like checking out the food trucks that are around. That’s something that’s new to me. They’ve got some nice spots. They know what they’re doing. Off the court I like playing video games like 2K and Call of Duty. I like to fish a little bit. I love music, I listen to music all day every day. As much as I can.”
Q18) Who is the best and worst 2K player on the team, and who is your favorite music artist?
A18) “I haven’t really played against anybody in 2K. But the way they talk in the locker room I feel like Jake Younkin is the worst. The way LJ talks, he makes it sound like he’s the best. But I like to think of myself as the best 2K player. I just had a triple double in the rec this morning, I’m nice. I had 22 points, 11 assists, and 10 steals. It was crazy. I got a 99 steal man, I’m spamming that X button. As far as my favorite rapper, it’s definitely NBA Youngboy.”
Q19) The ultimate goal after Baylor is obviously to make the NBA. But you had mentioned in your intro video on the Baylor MBB Twitter that you have a passion to start your own foundation or continue doing work for your uncles foundation. What sparked a passion for charity and how do you hope to positively impact the world outside of basketball?
A19) “It started in the years after his passing. Unfortunately he was shot and killed in 2005. So they give scholarships out to students at Fairmont Senior, where I went to high school and where he went to high school. I would just like it if I’m financially able one day to boost that number up a little bit, and help change people’s lives from where I’m from. That would be huge to me.”