Future Watch: Ja Morant Rookie Basketball Cards, Grizzlies – Ja Morant was born in Sumter, South Carolina in 1999. His father, Tee Morant, is a former basketball player and was high school teammates with Ray Allen. Tee would train his son in their back yard, teaching Ja the art of the step-back jump shot. As a youth, Ja would play for the South Carolina Hornets, a small AAU team based out of Columbia, South Carolina. For a single season he was teammates with 2019 draft peer Zion Williamson.
Morant attended Crestwood High School in Sumter. Between his freshman and junior seasons, he grew from 5’9” to 6’0”. In his final two seasons at Crestwood he averaged 27 points, eight boards and eight assists per game. He also earned South Carolina Class 3A All-State honors in both of those years. Morant would leave Crestwood as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,679 points and a single-game scoring record of 47 points.
Despite earning All-Region Most Valuable Player Honors for three straight seasons, Morant was not ranked by any of the major college recruiting services. His only major NCAA Division I offer came from the University of South Carolina. However, after seeing Morant play in a three-on-three game while waiting to scout a different player, Murray State assistant coach James Kane led the charge to get Morant to commit to the small south-western Kentucky school. Morant’s father would say: “Every parent wants their child to play at a big-time program, but what I realized is, don’t go where you want to be, go to where they want you.”
Headed To Murray State
In his debut for the Racers, Morant scored seven points and handed out a team-high 11 assists in a win over Brescia University. A month later, he recorded his first collegiate double-double with 10 points and 12 boards in a loss to Saint Louis. A little over two week’s later, he recorded his first collegiate triple-double in an 80-52 win over Eastern Illinois with 11 points, 10 boards and 14 assists. It was the second triple-double in Murray State history.
Morant would finish his freshman season for the Racers with per-game averages of 12.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists. His 6.3 assists per game ranked 14th in the nation. In the 2018 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Championship, Morant helped lead Murray State to a victory over Belmot with 15 points, five boards and five assists. The win would earn Murray State a trip to the NCAA Tournament where they would lose their opening round game to West Virginia 85-68 despite Morant’s 14 points.
Heading into his sophomore season, Morant was starting to earn the attention of scouts at the next level. He was one of 20 players invited to Chris Paul’s “Elite Guard Camp” which Morant would call “an honor.” At the beginning of the collegiate basketball season, Ja was asked to assume a larger role for the Racers after the departures of two key players and he rose to the challenge. In his season debut, he scored 26 points and handed out 11 dimes in a 74-53 win over Wright State. On November 24th, 2018 he recorded his second collegiate triple-double in a 77-66 win over Missouri State with 29 points, 13 boards and 12 assists. In his next game, he scored a season-high 38 points in a 78-72 loss to Alabama.
At this point in the season, Morant was already being touted as a top-10 pick in the NBA draft with a chance to go in the top five. The only aspect of Morant’s game scouts could criticize was the fact that he played for a mid-major university and not an NCAA powerhouse. Ja would go on to silence those criticisms over the next few months with some very impressive performances. On January 10th, he broke the Murray State record for assists in a single game when he handed out 18 while scoring 26 points in a win over UT Martin. Nine days later he set a new career-high in scoring when he dropped 40 in a victory over SIU Edwardsville. In that game he made 21-of-21 shots from the free throw line, breaking the OVC record for most consecutive free throws made in a game. On February 2nd, Morant broke the Murray State single season assist record of 212 set by Chad Townsend in the 1996-97 season. He would go on to eclipse the Ohio Valley Conference assist record for a single season that had been previously held for 32 years by Duane Washington of Middle Tennessee.
Morant would go on to be named OVC Player of the Year and earn first-team All-OVC honors at the end of the regular season. At the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, Morant led Murray State to another conference title while winning tournament MVP honors. That win would earn the Racers a trip to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year. In their first-round victory over fifth-seeded Marquette, Morant became the eighth player to officially record a triple-double in the NCAA tournament with 17 points, 11 boards and 16 assists and the first since Draymond Green in 2012.
Murray State would end up losing their second-round matchup to the fourth seeded Florida State despite Morant’s 28 points. In that game, he set school records for career assists (532) and points (808). He would finish his sophomore season averaging 24.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 10 assists and 1.8 steals per game. His 10 assists per game led all NCAA Division I athletes and he became the first NCAA player to average at least 20 points and 10 assists per game in a single season. Needless to say, he was named as a consensus First-Team All-American. Shortly after Murray State’s loss in the NCAA Tournament, Ja Morant declared for the 2019 NBA draft.
On To The NBA
Heading into the draft, the only thing stopping Morant from being the consensus number one overall pick was his former AAU teammate Zion Williamson. His speed, athleticism and basketball IQ made him a game changing player at Murray State who drove everything the team did offensively. His instincts as a passer are off the charts, but he isn’t afraid to pull up from deep with a quick release off the dribble. As a defender he’ll need to add some weight to his 175-pound frame to avoid being pushed around by bigger and stronger guards, but he has the quickness to recover and length to contest shots at the rim. He’s also a solid rebounder who can crash the boards and get the offense going with fast break opportunities.
On draft night, the Memphis Grizzlies selected Ja Morant with the second overall pick. He would officially sign with the Grizzlies on July 2nd and did not participate in the Las Vegas Summer League. Morant made his NBA debut on October 23rd, 2019 and scored 14 points with four boards, four assists, a steal and a block in 101-120 loss to the Miami Heat.
The Grizzlies had a rough start to the season and entered the month of December with 5-13 record. Since then, they are 22-13 and currently the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Over that stretch Morant is averaging 17.0 points, 7.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. He recorded his first NBA triple-double on February 9th in a 106-99 win over the Washington Wizards with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Among all rookies, he’s second in scoring with 17.6 points and first in assists with 7.0. With Memphis currently holding onto a playoff spot and Zion Williamson missing the first half of the season, Ja Morant already has this year’s Rookie of the Year award in hand.
Check out “The Best of Ja Morant: Part 1” on the NBA YouTube channel:
Zion Williamson’s hype has been undeniable. His Summer League debut sold out an arena, and his NBA debut was broadcast on ESPN. He didn’t need to play a single NBA minute before collectors were racing to get his rookie cards into their collection. Morant still has plenty of hype, but it isn’t nearly as hard to acquire his rookie cards. There’s still a premium to be paid, but that premium has room to grow.
If you’re looking to make an investment in 2019-20 NBA rookie cards, Ja Morant is the better value over Zion Williamson at this point. Is Zion the better overall prospect? Yes, but so much has to go right in his career for his rookie cards to sustain their value. With Morant, you’re still paying a premium, but that cost is 1/6th the price of Zion and there’s a clearer path to growth for your investment in the short and long term. If the playoffs started today, Morant and the Grizzlies would be the eighth seed and playing in at least four nationally televised games while Zion sits on the sidelines.
All that said, both rookies are great for the NBA and will hopefully excite fans and collectors for years to come. Ja Morant and Zion Williamson will be playing for the U.S. team in the 2020 NBA Rising Stars game at All-Star Weekend on February 14th. There’s a very good chance fans will see plenty of lobs from Morant to Zion in that game, leading to some great highlights and hype for their rookie cards.
Collectors looking for cards featuring Ja Morant in his Murray State jersey will find his cards in Panini’s 2019 collegiate basketball programs including Contenders Draft Picks, Prizm Draft Picks and Flawless Collegiate. As top-3 pick, you can expect to find Ja Morant wearing a Grizzlies jersey in all of Panini’s 2019-20 NBA basketball programs including Hoops, Contenders, Crown Royale and many more to come.
Future Watch: Ja Morant Rookie Basketball Cards, Grizzlies – Stats
Future Watch: Ja Morant Rookie Basketball Cards, Grizzlies – More Resources
- NBA.com Player Profile – Ja Morant
- Ja Morant – Secondary Market Pricing
- Follow Ja Morant on Twitter @JaMorant and Instagram @jamorant
Future Watch: Ja Morant Rookie Basketball Cards, Grizzlies – Image Gallery
Check out previous NBA Future Watch Articles featuring 2019 Draft Picks below:
- RJ Barrett, Knicks
- Brandon Clarke, Grizzlies
- Jarrett Culver, Timberwolves
- Darius Garland, Cavaliers
- Rui Hachimura, Wizards
- Jaxson Hayes, Pelicans
- Tyler Herro, Heat
- De’Andre Hunter, Hawks
- Cameron Johnson, Suns
- Eric Paschall, Warriors
- PJ Washington, Hornets
- Coby White, Bulls
- Zion Williamson, Pelicans
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- Future Watch: Zion Williamson Rookie Basketball Cards, Pelicans - February 5, 2020