Jerami Grant Strives To Be More Than Just An Athlete

by Max Rappaport
Sixers.com Writer
@MaxRappaport

Slumped over and sweating profusely, Jerami Grant’s breath can be heard loud over the faint buzz of the fluorescent lights above the court at the Sixers’ practice facility. It’s after midnight, and the rookie forward is getting up some extra shots, something he does regularly after home games.

“The easiest time to get in [the gym] is after a game, so I just come in and work as hard as I can,” the 20-year-old Grant said. “[I] love to be in the gym. It’s [my] comfort zone.”

Even as a teenager at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland, Grant would often wake up well before the break of dawn to get in an early workout while his teammates were still in bed. He’d come home afterwards, take a short nap, and then head straight back to the gym to get more reps.

A relentless work ethic something that was instilled in him at an early age, with his father, Harvey Grant, setting that example for a young Jerami during the tail end of his 11-year NBA career, the final year of which was played in Philadelphia in 1998-99.

In addition to his father, Jerami’s uncle Horace had an NBA career that spanned three decades and included four NBA Championships. Each of Jerami’s brothers play; his youngest brother, Jaelin, is a senior at DeMatha, Jerian is hoping to be drafted this coming June following his senior season at Notre Dame, and his oldest brother, Jerai, plays professionally in Lithuania. Simply put, the Grants eat, sleep, and breathe hoops.

But basketball wasn’t just the sports Jerami Grant was raised to play, it’s the one he was born to play.

On Thursday, Brett Brown approached the 6’8” rookie while he talked to members of the media at the tail end of practice. “Jerami, spread out your arms and get in a defensive stance,” he barked at Grant playfully. Moments later, the 20-year-old unfurled his upper limbs and showed off a wingspan that could have easily engulfed the group of four or five reporters. “Now that’s a hooper!” Brown exclaimed.

His amazing physical gifts and natural defensive instincts helped him block eight shots in just 25 minutes of play off the bench against the Knicks on Wednesday. He’s one of just eight players in that past two decades to swat away that many attempts in so few minutes.

But as his late-night workouts imply, he’s not content with merely resting on his immense inherent talents. He’s striving to be great.

At Syracuse, Grant made a name for himself with his defensive energy, his rebounding prowess, and his ability to play an efficient, albeit ancillary, role offensively. With the Sixers, he’s looked to diversify his skill set and become a reliable option at both forward positions. In order to do that, he knows he needs to become a more consistent shooting threat from the perimeter.

In 72 games with the Orange, Grant attempted just 20 three-pointers, making six, and in the first 20 games of his rookie campaign with Philadelphia, Grant went 4-for-21 (19.0%) from deep. But in his last seven games, he’s made nine of the 17 triples he’s attempted, good for a 52.9% conversion rate. Against the Wizards on Monday, he set a career high, making three triples on six attempts.

“Our shooting coach Eugene Burroughs deserves all the credit, and Jerami Grant deserves equal parts of the credit because he’s invested time,” said Coach Brown. “We know when this gym sleeps, we have people here all the time. And for Jerami to come back after a game, at midnight, is not uncommon. He invests time, and he, right now, is my poster child for what hard work can produce.”

Brown envisions a not-so-distant future in which Grant’s immense frame has filled out, one in which the 20-year-old’s weight is closer to 250 pounds than to 200 pounds. If he can combine that with the skill set of a small forward, the sky is truly the limit. 

“He just loves the game, he’s well-raised, went through a hell of a high school, [has an NBA] family tree... And then you look at his body, and then you look at his work ethic… and it all adds up into a very interesting prospect.” Brown said. “He’s one of these guys, for me, that makes me want to hug Sam [Hinkie], because he nailed it.”