It all started in Dalzell, South Carolina. Silence filled the air in the small town except for the sound of a basketball bouncing coming from the backyard of the Morant residence. This is where projected No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant could be found working out with his father. When a full sized court was put in the backyard, the two person workouts turned into a big event for the entire community. On any given Sunday, as many as 80 people could be found in Morant’s backyard playing basketball and enjoying a nice meal.
“On Sundays, we have a big hoop session and cookout to start the day,” Morant said when asked about the event. “It’s something that my parents like to do to help kids in our community.”
Dalzell is a small town in the middle of South Carolina with just over 2,000 people living in it. The total area for Dalzell is 6.9 square miles. Ja’s father, Tee Morant, went to Hillcrest High School in Dalzell. As a member of the basketball team, he played alongside NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen.
Like his hometown, Morant did not receive much attention growing up. He attended Crestwood High School, where he went unranked as a recruit. Morant played alongside Zion Williamson on a team out of Columbia, South Carolina called the South Carolina Hornets. This was where Williamson blew up, but Morant continued to fly under the radar.
He received an offer to stay home and play for the University of South Carolina. However, he opted to go out of state and play for Murray State. The reason he decided to attend Murray State was simple.
“Family,” Morant said when asked about his decision. “As soon as I got there, they really made me feel like I was at home, and that definitely factored into my choice.”
The Influence of Music
Ja Morant, who recently partnered with JBL, averaged 24.5 points and 10 assists during his sophomore campaign. Prior to games, he could be seen with headphones on getting zoned in listened to his favorite artist Lil Baby.
“I always have his albums on shuffle pre game,” Morant said. “I started listening to him when he released ‘Perfect Timing’ and now I listen to whatever he puts out. It gets me ready for the game”
Whether he is in his backyard with his father or getting ready to put up 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 16 assists in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Morant always has music on. To him, it is more than just a way to get ready for a game. It is a way to bring people together and get a message across.
That is why athletes, like Andre Drummond, have teamed up with JBL to create Sounds of the City.
JBL Sounds of the City
This is a series where music producers team up with basketball players to create beats about the cities that they represent. Each episode is about a new player and producer collaborating to create an anthem for the city. Drummond, who recently released his own single called “Listen,” teamed up with producer and Detroit native Key Wane to create a song for their city.
Drummond was drafted ninth overall by the Pistons in 2012 and getting set to enter his eighth year with the team. He has led the NBA in rebounding three times, including each of the last two seasons. Drummond is coming off a campaign where he averaged 17.3 points and 15.6 rebounds per game.
The near seven-footer helped lead the Pistons to 41 wins and a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. For Drummond, it is important to give back off the court which is what Sounds of the City gave him a chance to do.
“Detroit has so much history musically, and for me to represent that for the city was huge,” Andre Drummond said. “The feedback and love I got for it was great. Overall, it gave me a chance to get out and walk around parts of the city that I haven’t been in and see what’s great.”
When asked about the possibility of putting out his own music with Sounds of the City, Morant said “I’m not a rapper, but I’ll think about it.”
Music and Basketball
“Me and my sister were always in charge of the music,” Ja Morant said about his role on Sundays. “With JBL, listening with the headphones and how loud they are. That’s how I like to listen. We developed a relationship right away so the process was easy.”
Drummond serves as an ambassador for JBL. The company recently welcomed Morant and Jarrett Culver, who is also a projected lottery pick, to the family. Drummond has been giving these two future stars advice for the future, both on and off the court.
“Never get too hot or cold, stay even because this game is a roller coaster ride,” Andre Drummond said. “Have fun while you’re out there, enjoy it with your family and friends. This game doesn’t last forever, so you have to enjoy every moment of it.”
On Thursday, June 20, Morant is going to go from a kid from the small town of Dalzell, South Carolina to a top-two pick in the NBA Draft. He will be looked at to come in and make an immediate impact for a struggling franchise.
“I’ll be happy with whatever team drafts me,” Morant said. “I’m gonna go in and continue to be Ja and work hard everyday to just make an impact on the team.”
Despite all the fame that will be coming his way, Morant will never forget where he came from.
“I have the opportunity to put the city on the map. It’s been something I worked for my entire life,” Morant told the Players’ Tribune in a video entitled Court Origins. “I want to be remembered as a great player from Dalzell, but mostly as a great all-around person who cares for a lot of people.”