Those who saw Jaylon Hall play before high school probably wouldn’t recognize him now. He was pipsqueak then — a point guard who seldom ventured from the perimeter.
But he picked up 5½ inches between his sophomore and junior years, and he’s sprouted another one or two inches since coming to Wright State. The third-year sophomore is currently listed at 6-6.
And his growth off the court has been just as dramatic. The Raiders’ defensive stalwart had difficult teen years in his native Houston, so much so that his parents sent him to live with an uncle in Louisville just before high school.
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Asked the reason behind the move, Hall said: “Home issues. Things with my parents. Me and my dad came to the solution that the best thing for me was to leave home and move to Kentucky.”
His uncle is Tony Williams, who was a 1,000-point scorer at Louisville and now is the basketball coach at Doss High School there. For Hall, the move was life-changing.
“We’re real, real close,” he said of Williams. “He became my high school coach. He benefitted me in every way possible. He taught me how to become a pro, how to be a man. I can’t thank him enough.”
Wright State coach Scott Nagy is grateful Hall relocated, too. He never would have discovered the athletic wing without him transferring into the Raiders’ recruiting region, and they had a great shot at landing him because his only other scholarship offer was Youngstown State.
The rest of the Horizon League may regret sleeping on him.
“He doesn’t get as much attention because, offensively, his numbers aren’t off the charts,” Nagy said. “But we ask him to guard every good player on every team. And he’s generally a pretty good matchup for most guards because he’s bigger than them and he’s hard to score over.
“He’s quick and has great instincts on the ball. I’ve always tried to tout him as our most important player — he just is. I put everything on his shoulders.”
Hall, who is averaging 8.4 points, is the only Raider starter not scoring in double figures — despite textbook shooting form. But he’s making 37.7% of his 3’s (the seventh-best mark in the league among players averaging eight or more points) and dishing out a team-best 3.4 assists.
He tallied 15 points, two off his career high, and went 3 of 5 on 3’s in a 95-63 annihilation of Northern Kentucky last week.
“When he has a catch-and-shoot (opportunity), he has great spin on the ball. I think it’s going in every time,” Nagy said. “But the main thing we lean on him more for is defense.”
Hall, a league all-defensive team candidate this season, actually relishes his role.
“I do what’s needed to win. I feel like I’m able to do everything. Whatever we’re lacking that game, I can pick up that slack — especially defensively,” he said. “I’ve turned up my intensity on defense, and it’s benefitted us a lot.”
Asked if he ever pines for more chances on offense, he said: “Definitely. When I get going like I did (against NKU), you always wish you could get three or four more shots.
“But I’m ecstatic with the 30-point win. I’ll take the 30-point win over a couple extra shots.”
Nagy has been impressed with Hall’s maturity, calling him a model teammate.
“He’s a great kid,” Nagy said. “He’s smart. You tell him something one time, and he knows the play. He’s very intelligent.
“He just has a big impact on our team when his demeanor is high. He wasn’t feeling well (early last week). He was slumped over most times. But I could tell before the game he was starting to feel better. You could see the smile on his face. It made a big difference.”
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