PHOENIX – Jalen Lecque basically lives a double life. A different city, a different jersey and a different league depending on the day.
Since the beginning of 2020, he has been recalled or assigned by the Phoenix Suns to or from the Northern Arizona Suns five times. This occurs when an NBA player is on a two-way contract. If he is on the Phoenix roster, Lecque receives NBA compensation; if he is assigned to the Northern Arizona minor league team in Prescott Valley, he is paid the G League rate.
Essentially, Lecque can suit up for the Suns in a game against the Bucks in Milwaukee and be back in Prescott for a G League contest the next day. This situation is difficult for anyone making a back-and-forth transition, but Lecque appears to have adjusted well.
“It’s more games, but you just keep on working,” Lecque said. “It even keeps me even … hungrier, I feel like I have to prove something every day and have a chip on my shoulder.”
The unusual lifestyle follows the path of Lecque’s life. The guard from Bronx, New York is one of the few players who has been able to skip college or international play to enter the draft.
Lecque, 19, reclassified after his junior year of high school. That opened up the opportunity to forego a level and jump straight into the NBA. Though he signed a letter of intent in November 2018 to play at North Carolina State, Lecque decided to enter his name in the 2019 NBA Draft after receiving positive feedback from pro scouts.
After Lecque didn’t hear his name on draft night, he got the call from the Suns and signed a four-year contract, with two years guaranteed.
“Draft night was big for me,” Lecque said. “When I got the call from Phoenix … it was a great opportunity for me. They were just showing me love, giving me all this mechanical stuff I needed for my body, just everything.”
Before the draft, Lecque had completed the NCAA’s required graduation policy in terms of academics in spring of 2018. He had the opportunity to head to college, but chose to leave Christ School in Arden, North Carolina, for Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
At the Brewster Academy, Lecque played under long time coach Jason Smith. Smith said he gets around 800 inquiries yearly from parents and students interested in attending Brewster Academy. The application process includes an interview, recommendations from three current teachers and various tests.
Smith loved to have Lecque for his basketball abilities as well. Lecque made a name for himself by becoming Instagram famous — his account has over 450,000 followers — through a series of dunk videos. The athleticism he displayed in those videos is the exact trait Smith believes got Lecque to the NBA.
“We’ve had some phenomenal athletes during my 20 years here, but I think Jalen is just another level of athleticism, explosiveness,” Smith told Cronkite News in a phone interview. “I think that’s why people are intrigued with him. Making the jump that he did, going from prep school to the NBA.”
The lack of stability when jumping from team to team means relationships are at times hard to build. Usually it’s finding those connections among the team. Northern Arizona Sun’s Tariq Owens’ connection with Lecque is based upon sharing the same home state.
“He’s a great teammate,” Owens said. “He’s a young kid, so he’s fiery. I enjoy it (being) from New York, we’re kinda similar. I have a lot of family in New York, (I) spend mad time in New York. Being with somebody like him even though he’s younger we get that feel of home. It feels like I’ve known him longer than the couple of months since being here and meeting him in the summer.”
For most G League players, stories such as Lecque’s follow a similar pattern of strange, winding roads to their dreams of the NBA. His message to anyone else making the attempt is to never give up on their dreams and continue to get better.
“Just keep on working,” he said. “It’s a lot, just dealing with it. Dealing with the NBA in general. It’s a job and you love it, I love it. I just want to be the best. Whatever I gotta do to get on the floor or whatever I gotta do to just produce, I’ll do it.”