Jalen Green's Fresno upbringing motivates him to prove people wrong

Written by Chris Haynes (via Yahoo Sports)

LAS VEGAS — Most now know about Jalen Green, the young prodigy the Houston Rockets selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NBA draft. But very few know about where the 19-year-old guard is from.

Green grew up in Fresno, California, located in the Central Valley with a population of approximately 1 million in Fresno County. When people think of the Golden State, Los Angeles typically comes to mind. After that, the Bay Area and then probably San Diego.

Ever since Green burst onto the scene as a nationally ranked player his sophomore year in high school, his travels in the AAU circuit have always come with one constant question.

“It was more like ‘Where is Fresno?’ type of thing,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “‘What is Fresno?’ It was never disrespectful. I always felt like I had respect wherever I went, but it was just like, ‘Where are you from? What is Fresno?’ Nobody really knew where Fresno was or how hard Fresno is.”

How Fresno shaped Jalen Green

Gang activity and poverty have always been embedded in the city, but there has been an uptick in crime and murders over the last decade. According to Fresno’s ABC 30 in March, “Fresno's homicide rate per 100,000 people is among the highest. It's more than four times that of LA, San Diego, San Jose or San Francisco, and higher than the next four largest California cities, too, apart from Oakland.”

The city isn’t small enough to be classified as a “where everybody knows your name” town, but it’s small enough to where one may know the name of a close relative, and depending on the activities involved, that close proximity could potentially be dangerous.

Greg Day — better known by his stage name “Diego Redd” — provided a brief synopsis of Fresno. He is one of the city’s legendary hip-hop artists and entrepreneurs born and raised in the town.

“Fresno is a really close-knit and loving community,” Day told Yahoo Sports. “However, there is a whole world out there that exists that many here have never, and will never, experience. And if you don’t step outside or haven’t been prepared to leave Fresno, that’s when you can get into trouble. Also being from Fresno, if you get comfortable, it can hinder you and hold you back later. The pros are it’s family oriented. The cons are you can develop a tunnel-vision way of thinking. There’s so much more in the world, and it’s important that we know that.”

So when Green is explaining his city to his peers, here is his best description.

“I say Fresno is a small city, it’s small-minded but with a lot of good people,” Green told Yahoo Sports. “It's really crazy out there. I always mention that part because people just don’t know about Fresno. They think it’s some nice little city, but really it’s not.”

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