Pelicans forward Jalen Jones laid groundwork for pro career as rookie in G League

by Jim Eichenhofer

Chris Sedenka has been the voice of the Maine Red Claws since their inception in 2009. He also co-hosts a weekday sports radio show on 96.3 FM in Portland, Maine. We caught up with the broadcaster – who covered Pelicans two-way contract signee Jalen Jones during the forward’s rookie season with the Boston Celtics affiliate – to learn more about one of the newest New Orleans players. Jones was a G League All-Star in 2016-17, coincidentally playing in that league's midseason All-Star Game in New Orleans as part of the NBA's festivities here in the Crescent City: During Jones’ season spent with Maine in the G League last season, what area did he improve most from the beginning of his rookie year until the end?

Sedenka: I think when you look at someone like Jalen, who already has immense talent and athleticism, you are hoping to see him improve as a professional athlete. And that certainly was the case here in Maine. He came in, played numerous positions, was a team leader, one of the leading scorers and rebounders, and at times the go-to guy. That’s a lot to ask a rookie. Were there growing pains? No doubt. But over the course of the season, Jalen really blossomed into a very solid NBA prospect. What do coaches believe he needs to show most, or improve upon, in order to carve out a full-time, permanent job in the NBA?

Sedenka: I think a general improvement in his game. He has the talent and ability, it’s just about being able to bring it on a nightly basis. The outside shooting needs to improve, especially in today’s NBA where virtually everyone is expected to hit a three-pointer. He will need to improve his defense on the wing and his ball-handling as well. He describes himself as a player who’s been a combo forward in the past, but his future in the NBA likely would be at small forward. What are some of the traits you saw him display that might allow him to succeed at the three position?

Sedenka: First thing is he’s extremely athletic. Truly gifted in that regard. There won’t be many players that will best him in this category. He also has the ability to play the perimeter and the inside. We saw a lot of this last year with the Red Claws. He does need to be more accurate with the outside shot, but certainly has the ability to improve. He will need to improve defensively for the next level, but the effort won’t be an issue. What did you learn most about Jones over the course of 2016-17 in terms of his approach to basketball or his career?

Sedenka: His attitude is fantastic. From the first day of practice to the last game of the year, he was incredibly measured. Jalen seemed like a five- or six-year vet. He is very good with the community and the media. He never quits. The team could be down by 30 and he is out there battling like it’s in triple overtime. Jalen just gets it. And the fans will love him. What’s one thing we might be surprised to learn about Jones, either on or off the court?

Sedenka: That man loves some Popeyes! (Who doesn’t?)