Jahmi’us Ramsey Working to Make a Name for Himself

A year after his eye-catching season at Texas Tech, Ramsey, one of the youngest players in the NBA, is patiently waiting his turn to showcase his two-way talent at the next level.
by Alex Kramers
Writer, Kings.com

Avery Ramsey didn’t set his alarm clock for 6 a.m., content to sleep for a couple more hours before the sunrise would illuminate his bedroom.

Yet, like clockwork, when the little hand on Avery’s watch approached six, his two sons, Jahmi’us and Corinthian, sneakers laced and duffel bags stuffed with basketballs and water bottles, were there to interrupt his peaceful slumber. Within minutes, the trio shuttled to a nearby training center to run through shooting drills and practice dribbling moves inside an empty gym.

“My dad used to make me and my brother wake him up instead of him coming to get us up,” Jahmi’us said, “to see how bad we really wanted it.”

It turned out both of Avery’s kids, each of whom would later thrive on the ultra-competitive Texas high-school and college circuits, wanted it more than anything.

For Jahmi’us, then a seventh-grader, 6 o’clock was when the dream he started having in elementary school — the one in which he hit shot after shot on an NBA court, and confetti floated from the rafters after the final buzzer —would come to an end, and the real work to get there began.

Were it not for that dream, as ambitious as it may have seemed at the time, he might not have gone to the lengths he did to put himself in position to reach the pros.

After playing his first two high-school seasons at Mansfield Summit (Arlington) — including on the junior varsity team as a freshman — Ramsey transferred to IMG Academy (Florida), a boarding school tailored for student-athletes, to raise his basketball profile and better prepare himself for on and off-court challenges he’d face at the next level.

As a senior, with his sights set on a nomination to the McDonald’s All-American Game, the nation’s marquee high-school all-star showcase, he traversed 700 miles north to Oak Hill Academy in rural Virginia. But Ramsey’s stay in the Mid-Atlantic would only last a few weeks due to a family matter back home, where his multi-high-school path wrapped up at Duncanville, a public high school outside of Dallas.

His decision to transfer for the third time in three years proved fortuitous when the Panthers won the Class 6A State Championship, with Ramsey scoring the go-ahead basket in the final minute of the title game.

Ramsey made his mark on the season with averages of 21 points and six rebounds per game, earning Dallas Morning News SportsDay Player of the Year, plus Allen Iverson Classic All-American and Jordan Brand All-American honors.

“It definitely ended up working out for the best,” he said.

Along his roundabout basketball route, the 19-year-old, a self-confessed homebody who’d rather cue up a movie in his room than spend a night on the town, proved he could adapt to life outside of his comfort zone and thrive in any ecosystem where basketball might take him.

“I would characterize [my journey] as growth or more so, I can adjust to anything,” he said. “Playing in four different high schools, I feel like that just helped me to play anywhere, be able to take different coaching and adjust really well to different environments.”

Ramsey, a five-star recruit by Rivals, considered upwards of 10 major collegiate programs, including Florida, Indiana, Memphis, Louisville and LSU, before committing to Texas Tech. The geographical proximity to his hometown factored into his decision — “I’m a Texas guy,” he said — but what set the school apart was head coach Chris Beard’s genuineness and history of developing talented players into NBA-ready prospects.

With a game as captivating as his one-of-a-kind first name (pronounced Jah-MY-us), a twist on the more conventional Jeremiah, and as eclectic as his trademark half-blonde locks — first dyed by his father when Ramsey was in the 10th grade — the well-rounded 6-foot-4 guard was hard to miss in the NCAA.

As the Red Raiders’ offensive focal point, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year averaged 15 points, four rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game. With a smooth, balanced outside stroke, he connected on 42.6 percent from three-point range on a shade over five attempts a night, establishing himself as one of the most reliable marksmen in the country.

Drawing comparisons to an All-Star player he admired growing up, Russell Westbrook, Ramsey also flourished as a go-to shot-creator, scoring 1.0 points per possession in isolation (88th percentile), according to Synergy Sports, and flashed his above-the-rim explosiveness in transition opportunities, where he notched 1.17 PPP (76th).

Under the eye of Beard and assistant coach Bob Donewald, who concocted an individualized plan designed to maximize his strengths and rectify his deficiencies, Ramsey developed from purely a good shooter to a great off-ball scorer and disciplined defender.

Inside Donewald’s office, with a laptop propped open on a desk in front of him and game film playing on a loop, Ramsey pushed the rewind and fast-forward buttons again and again, dissecting schemes and searching for any mental errors that disrupted his game.

He was there every day before practice for at least 15 minutes, and returned in between classes to sneak in another video session with the assistant coach. After school, there were nights when Ramsey sat alongside Donewald for hours more, pouring over as much film as he could find and providing a running commentary of plays that caught his eye.

“I finally said to him, ‘Ramsey, this isn’t my office anymore. Do you mind if I use your office?’” Donewald said. “He laughed because it got to the point that he was always in there. There were very rare times [the coaches] would get out of the office to go to lunch, but if I did, I’d come back, and he’d be sitting in my chair and he’d be on the software!”

Most young players, says Donewald, who’s coached in college, the NBA and overseas for 26 years, need time to learn how film study can benefit them before they can reap the benefits. Ramsey, from Day 1, was devoted to it, practically begging coaches to assign him homework he could pull up on his iPad in his dorm room.

“The kid is a student of the game; he’s a guy who really, really wants to get better,” Donewald said. “He’s a guy who would request to see not only his practice tape, but his game tape and [tapes of] NBA players. He’s a big Westbrook fan, so he’d want to see Westbrook clips and we would throw that together for him.”

His commitment to film study, combined with impeccable footwork and sound instincts, was a major reason why Ramsey made major strides as the season progressed. Soon after getting the hang of the vernacular and figuring out opponents’ game plans, Ramsey learned to frequently reposition himself on the perimeter and hunt for open space.

The education clearly paid off, as Ramsey scored 1.27 PPP on catch-and-shoot opportunities (91st percentile) and was nearly as effective running off screens with 1.20 PPP (88th percentile).

“I improved a lot [after] I learned how to read screens,” he said. “If a guy, let’s say, shoots the gap, you don’t have to keep coming to the ball. You can stay behind the screen and your point guard will get you the ball to knock down the shot.”

Ramsey recognizes ball-handling and creating looks for his teammates are among the skills he still needs to improve, but he made progress in both areas in the latter stages of the year. Over his final seven games, he averaged 3.7 assists— up from 1.7 over his first 20 contests— including seven helpers, along with 25 points, in a win at Iowa State.

Determined to outcompete his counterparts on the defensive end, with a “kill everything” mantra when he steps on the court, he led the team in steals (1.3 per game; 10th in the Big 12) and finished second in blocks (0.7) and defensive win shares (1.7).

"Just watching yourself, how you move, and watching defenses, because sometimes you play teams twice in your conference, that helped translate over to the defensive end, too,” Ramsey said, “[I learned to] stay active more than usual, but not launch for steals if you can’t get it.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended his season in mid-March, at the onset of the Big 12 Tournament, and shut down access to workout facilities across the country, Ramsey found other ways to maintain his conditioning. At a park down the street from his family’s house in the Dallas area, he’d sprint up and down two hills and practice defensive slides in the dirt.

Once gyms reopened, Ramsey resumed waking up at 6 a.m. on most mornings to lift weights with his physical trainer, Melvin Sanders, and later hoist shots with his basketball trainer, Tim Martin.

“That was a pretty normal day for me,” Ramsey said. “After working out with Tim, [I’d] go home, play a game or whatever, and go back and shoot again with him.”

On Draft night, after months of preparation and anxiety, Ramsey was unnerved, he says, as he waited to hear his name called alongside family and friends gathered at The Slate, a co-working space in the Dallas Design District.

After a call from his agent confirmed he’d land in Sacramento with the No. 43 pick, Ramsey embraced his parents and brother in jubilation and sighed in relief that all the hard work, all the discipline, all the focus, culminated into fulfilling his long-held dream.

“It was really special,” Ramsey said. “I wouldn’t ask for it to be any other way.”

With roughly five weeks between the Draft and onset of the regular season, the transition for Ramsey, and for the entire crop of rookies, has been challenging, and his playing time so far has been limited to 16 minutes across four appearances.

But Ramsey, one of the youngest players in the League, is confident the time is coming when he’ll make his impact, whether that’s catching fire from long range when the starting unit is suffering an off night, or locking down his assignment when the defense is hemorrhaging points.

He’s always been a self-starter, so he has no trouble staying ready, spending extra hours at the practice facility until it’s his moment to shine.

“It’s been that way my whole life; it’s how I was raised,” No. 3 said. “I was never given anything. I had to work for it all.”

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