At 6-foot-5, 202 pounds, Jerian Grant has to do some very heavy lifting.
The weight of the world gets a bit cumbersome at times.
“I always try to tell him if he doesn’t smile once or twice in practice, I’m going to kick him out because he wants it so bad,” said head coach Mike Brey of the Irish junior, who has two years of eligibility after this season.
“He comes from a very competitive family. They all want to deliver and make their dad proud, and I think sometimes he just gets too uptight.”
Indeed, there is much baggage to be hauled around coming from the Grant family, where father Harvey and uncle Horace starred on the collegiate level at Oklahoma and Clemson respectively, and then went on to successful careers in the NBA.
Jerian, whose oldest brother Jerai played at Clemson while younger brother Jerami is a freshman at Syracuse, averaged 12.3 points and 4.9 assists per game in his debut season in 2011-12 after preserving a year of eligibility.
Grant, along with backcourt mate Eric Atkins, had hoped to hit the ground running in 2012-13. But the start to the season has come with some adversity after last weekend’s Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn. Leading by eight with less than four minutes remaining, the Irish hit a scoring drought, went into overtime, and lost to St. Joseph’s.
Grant converted just 4-of-17 shots against the Hawks, but then bounced back in the second half of Saturday’s consolation clash with BYU. He scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half to help lead the Irish to a 79-70 victory.
Four nights later, Grant scored 12 of his 13 points in the first half en route to a 17-point victory over George Washington.
“We’re definitely a really good team, but we have a long way to go to be where we want to be this season,” said Grant, the Bowie, Md., product who hails from basketball tradition-rich DeMatha High School in Hyattsville.
"When we lose, I feel like that's because of me, because I didn't do something right or I didn't make a play. I talked to coach and he said, 'That's not how you need to look at things.'"
-- Jerian Grant
“My confidence is high. After coming off that first game in Brooklyn, I talked to coach and that second game really helped me out. Right now, I’m pretty confident in myself.”
But that confidence has a tendency to ebb and flow like the ocean tides, particularly when Grant misses 13-of-17 shots, as he did against St. Joseph’s, or when he sees a 14-to-12 assist-to-turnover ratio through five games on the stat sheet after a sparkling 169-to-66 mark in 2011-12.
“I’ve had (that conversation) with him twice,” Brey said. “He was really feeling it before the season started, and I met him (on campus) and just sat down with him and he was like, ‘This is the year…after this year, Jack’s going to be gone…I guess we’ve got to do it now…’ And I was like, ‘Just slow down, man.’”
Grant wants is all at once. It was hard enough sitting out his freshman year to preserve a year of eligibility. Frustration hit early last season when he had difficulty settling down, playing in rhythm, and developing a chemistry with his teammates.
But he eventually settled in, learned how to play floor general with Atkins, and fired in 57 three-pointers.
Grant expects more out of his team and, most especially, himself.
“Coming off last year, I feel like my role on the team is really big,” Grant said. “When we lose, I feel like that’s because of me, because I didn’t do something right or I didn’t make a play. I talked to coach and he said, ‘That’s not how you need to look at things.’”
Translation? Chill, dude.
Brey sees glimpses of Grant learning how to roll with the punches better. But when he has a shooting game like he did against St. Joseph’s, there’s a tendency for him to revert back to his old line of thinking.
“When he missed some shots, he had the weight of the world on him and let that affect the rest of (his shots),” Brey said. “He was flat-out rock bottom at halftime (vs. St. Joseph’s) after I yanked him on that poor defensive transition play. He didn’t have a very good half. I was about ready to strangle him. I wasn’t quite sure what we were going to get in the second half. My mind is going, ‘Is (Cameron) Biedscheid going to have to finish this?’
“So for him to come back and really concentrate, that’s a good step for him and I hope he can build on that and just smile a little bit. We’re playing college basketball. This should be fun.”
Grant hopes to settle down and get locked in sooner rather than later.
“Just relax and play the game like I’m capable of playing,” said Grant of his short- and long-term mission.
It’s all part of the evolution of Jerian Grant. Lightening the load on himself is the first step.