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TDS exclusive interview with Jalen Green’s ex-coach Joey Fuca: “Jalen is ready for this”

Coach Fuca made time to sit down to discuss Jalen Green’s maturity and growth as a player from high school to the G-League and now the NBA.

NBA G League Playoffs - G League Ignite v Raptors 905 Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

As the draft becomes closer, it has become evident the Houston Rockets are banking on Jalen Green. Green has stolen most of the media traffic since the lottery. His unique skill set at 19 years old is prominent. Between Devin Booker, Paul George, and Bradley Beal, Green shows similarities with all of those players.

Being able to be create opportunities for his teammates with nifty passing and destroying defenders with perimeter and mid-range jump shots has opened the eyes of spectators. Green is very explosive towards the rim and shifty with his first step to create shots off the dribble.

Green’s former coach Joey Fuca took time out of his schedule to sit down with TDS to discuss the eight months of coaching Green at Prolific Prep. While playing high school basketball, Green averaged 31.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.0 assist per game. He even led Prolific Prep to 31-3 record and the Grind Session World Championship.

“His down-hill playmaking is really hard to guard. If says he going to get to the rim, good luck. He is very good at getting to free throw line, he is also very explosive to finish above the rim. When his three ball is on, your just going have a long night. I wouldn’t be excited to guard him.” - Fuca

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: JAN 19 Spalding Hoophall Classic Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coach Fuca challenged Green at every aspect of his game, including his leadership. They butted heads several times. but that’s normal when a great player presents himself to an outstanding coach. Fuca even mentioned that Green is very coachable, which is needed at the NBA level. A young NBA player must take advice from players and coaches.

“Jalen was the best I had ever been around, in terms of riding him very hard. Obviously, he didn’t make as many mistakes as everyone else, but that’s one of the challenges. You got to hold somebody that good accountable because players that can get away with little bit more at that level are the ones you have to hold accountable. Jalen was never like that. We had a couple run-ins because I am very competitive and so is he. So he saw it one way, and I saw it a different way. But at the end of the day, he is going to change your franchise and he is extremely coachable. Always the first one practicing and always the last one to leave. Always the one to get more work in.”

“So from a coaching standpoint, there was no more than a pleasure to coach Jalen. I always tell people if you could go back in time to coach Lebron and Kobe in their high school days, that’s what it kind of felt like to me. It was like cheat code every game because you knew had Jalen on your team.” - Fuca

Another upside to Green is his one-on-one and zone defense on the perimeter. He has a seven-foot wingspan, which allows him to deflect and reach for the basketball in passing lanes. The quickness of his hands makes it harder for the opposing player to dribble by him. Those hands cause a ton steals on defense because he is smart and savvy, including the ability to move his feet. Green has incredible lateral movement in his lower body. He averaged 1.5 steals per game and maintained a 112 defensive rating on 32 minutes per game.

He shows glimpses of his defensive ability, but how consistent can Green be on defense? Honestly, it’s hard to guard everybody on defense in the NBA, but it’s a scary thing to be a defensive liability. Hopefully, Green avoids that nasty situation because he does show that he can play defense on the highest level of basketball.

“That’s one of the things I challenged Jalen with was the defensive side because when you’re in high school and you’re that much better offensively or in general to be honest, you can get away with a lot more. I think where he needs to continue to get better at is his defensive playmaking, because he actually has a 7’0” wingspan, he can jump the passing lanes, and his on-ball defense was great for us.”

“We had one game when we were down, and we were in a tight game against Harrison Ingram, who is a top-25 player that ended up going to Stanford, and Jalen decided that he was going to guard him and the game was going to be over. He took upon that challenge and I think that is going to be continually thing for him that he needs to. You have to be able to raise your level from an offensive standpoint and definitely a defensive standpoint.” - Fuca

Green also shows signs of being a playmaker, but his high-volume scoring takes advantage of that on offense. He shows the ability to do shovel passes underneath goal to his big man or to a wing player in the corner for an open shot. On fast breaks, Green isn’t afraid to pass the ball behind his back for a trailing teammate to finish with a shot, layup, or dunk. He can also be a good passer off pick-and-roll, as he manipulates the defense with his unique skill set.

“Being able to pass, being able to read, being able to make plays, and not being able to force someone to make passes. That’s one of the big things to understanding how to adapt to the game and how to make plays at the G-league level. And now he is about to be going against the best players in the world, so I think making those reads and understanding the game, adapting with the game.”

“Jalen has gotten better every year. There is a lot of knocks on his playmaking ability from other people. But his read making, and ball screen offense was really good. I think Jalen is going to be a continually improvement and I think that’s what you want as NBA general manager.” - Fuca

Fuca loves the fact that Green is an aggressive driver off pick-and-roll and in isolation sets. “Jalen is very good in transition and very good in isolation off the elbow,” Fuca said. “He is very good in ball screens.”

There have been so many rumors as who will go first between Cade Cunningham and Green, as both are gamechangers for franchises. Fuca told a unique story of a battle between Green and Cunningham in AAU. Prolific Prep and Montverde Academy were supposed to face off in New York City at Madison Square Garden, but COVID-19 shut everything down in 2020. Luckily, they faced each other at the Peach Jam.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: AUGUST 10 Nike Academy Showcase Game Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

“Jalen and Cade played against each other in BYBL for the Peach Jam. Why Not was playing the Texas Titans and Jalen, Why Not ended up beating them. It was a huge upset. Just to touch on your point, Jalen and Cade will change your franchise.”

“Jalen scores at very high level and Cade is more of a playmaker when it comes to making plays for other guys. Its not to say Jalen can’t do that but I think that’s the difference between the two. But defiantly man, both are very talented.” - Fuca

As Fuca and I got close to wrapping up the interview, we both admired Green’s hang time, which is incredible. I mentioned to Fuca that his hang time reminded me of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Green can create a shot over taller defenders while falling from the air. He has incredible strength and focus to finish a tough shot at any angle. His hang time is ridiculous for a player at 6’5”. Fuca elaborated on a cool story of Green adoring Bryant while growing up.

Green dropped 45 points the day Bryant died to honor him.

“Jalen was a big fan of Kobe. Kobe was definitely his idol. It was ironic when Kobe died. It was the morning of one of our games, and Jalen went out that afternoon and I think he scored 45 points that day. It was all in honor to Kobe and it was very cool. It was a surreal thing and for Jalen to do that was really cool.”

As spectators know, Green jumped over college basketball to play in the G-League. He averaged 17 points per game underneath Brian Shaw. Watching him adapt from playing high school basketball to going against grown man was astonishing. Now, on his horizon, he must go thrive against the best players in the world. Fuca and I believe that Green will become superstar.

“Jalen is ready for this. He decided to go to the G-league for a reason, because he is a pro and wants to be treated as a pro. There is time to adapt. Jalen is ready for this, man. He didn’t want to go to college, he didn’t want to go to school, he wanted to play basketball.”

“So, I think that he knew that there was going to be some type of a timetable. But at the same time, man, he has worked his whole life for this. For him, there wasn’t that much adaptability. Like I said earlier, I think the speed of the game and the strength of the game is transitional period of that. But that’s ok because that’s what Jalen is all about.” - Fuca

Hopefully, the Rockets can pair Green next to Kevin Porter Jr., as they already started to build a connection on social media.