Jerian Grant
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Knicks Find Right Fit in Trade For Jerian Grant

by Charlie Widdoes

Mike Brey could hardly contain himself as we set up for an interview around 10:30pm Thursday Night at Barclays Center. Jerian Grant, his point guard for half a decade at Notre Dame, had just been drafted with the 19th overall pick, and would soon become a New York Knick as part of a three-team trade.

“What a great fit!” the proud coach proclaimed upon hearing the news, unable to hold his excitement long enough for the camera to start recording. 

After selecting Kristaps Porzingis 4th overall, Phil Jackson and his staff decided to pull the trigger on a deal for Grant that cost them 2014 first-team All-Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. 

An energized Brey told our Jonah Ballow why he feels the move will pay off for New York:

First of all, he has the highest basketball IQ of anybody in this draft. He’s the most polished guard in this draft. He’s a man. He’s been with us for five years. He’s fully grown up. He played in the best league (the ACC). For the Triangle…you need a basketball IQ, feel-for-the-game guy to run that efficiently, and he’s great at that.

Grant emerged as a Consensus First-Team All-American this past season, leading the Fighting Irish to the ACC Championship and the Elite Eight while posting 16.5 points, 6.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. After nearly leading his team to victory over then-undeafeated Kentucky in his final game, the 6’4” playmaker had come a long way since becoming the youngest player to ever sign to play for Brey at Notre Dame, maturing into the player Jackson would tap to (eventually) run his offense.

“We had to make a choice, obviously, to get this pick,” said Jackson as he introduced his two first-round picks to the New York media on Friday. “But we think that the skills that Jerian has fit what we’re looking for in guard play as we go forward.”

Jackson praised Grant’s ability to “bend the defense” in the NCAA Tournament, and said that he has the versatility to play both guard spots in the Knicks’ system. Grant is a gifted facilitator, and he’s confident that a career-low 31.6 three-point percentage as a senior is no concern after shooting over 35 percent in his first three seasons.

“I think I can really knock down shots,” he told reporters in Chicago at May’s Draft Combine. “I didn’t get a lot of clean looks last year, but my form is nice. Being able to get more reps playing off the ball and proving I can knock down shots on a consistent basis is going to be big for me.”

Brey brushed off any shooting concerns, adding: “What Knicks fans will enjoy…he’s great at crunch time. Low shot clock stuff, he’s an excellent decision maker.” 

After so many big-time performances, it is no surprise that Grant -- whose father (Harvey) and uncle (Horace) played in the NBA -- caught the Knicks’ eye during the course of such a successful college career.

That Jackson maneuvered to acquire him also did not come as a shock to Jerian, who discussed potential fit in some detail during pre-draft meetings with the Knicks front office. “We think maybe they’ll trade to get another pick,” Grant told us back in Chicago. “You never know. There are a lot of trades, even on draft night.” 

Indeed, the match between player and team was too strong to ignore; an organization in the process of developing a winning culture seized an opportunity to add an experienced talent with NBA pedigree.

“You have to have the right players to play in the (Triangle) offense, and I’m a high basketball IQ guy,” Grant told us. “I think me being this old, I think I’ll be able to come in and help right now. But at the same time I can get a lot better.” 

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