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Jaylen Hands on Long Island: ‘I am really excited to be here’

Chris Milholen spoke with Jaylen Hands, one-on-one, about his journey from being the 20th ranked player in the high school class of 2017 to UCLA to his new opportunity with the Long Island Nets. 

Jaylen Hands is ready to show people who Jaylen Hands really is. His journey to the NBA has, in his own words, “been a lot of ups and downs” but the 6’3 point guard is poised and says he’s ready for a new opportunity, this time as a point guard for the Long Island Nets.

Hands was recently signed to a G League contract under the league’s relatively new Draft Rights provision which allows teams to assign a second draft pick directly to their G League affiliates while retaining their rights. The UCLA guard was drafted 56th by the Nets who used the Clippers second round pick to acquire him.

It’s a little bit of a comedown for Hands who was ranked 20th in the high school class of 2017, ranked higher than Trae Young and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. His high school mixtapes and highlight reels pulled in a million views and he was nicknamed “Baby Westbook” for his combination of skills and athleticism. Among his fans at Foothills Christian were Joe Tsai’s kids. Tsai, who hadn’t bought into the Nets at that point, even gave him a shoutout when UCLA played in China as a freshman, saying he had watched him in high school.

Hands had hoped for a one-and-done career, but stuck around for two years. He led the Pac-12 in assists last season, but was seen as a bit raw, too turnover-prone. So he lasted into the second round. Now, Hands is on a different path to the bright lights of the “L.” He realizes everyone’s journey is different and that he’s working to become a better, more polished player.

“It was a fun way for me to be honest with you,” Hands told NetsDaily. “High school was great but I realized once I got to college [UCLA] that I did not know a lot about the game of basketball. I was more or so just an athlete.

“So my journey [is] from going from someone running around making highlights to becoming a true player, a true point guard,” said the 20-year-old. “I think people like Trae [Young] and Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander], everyone’s journey is different. So for me, it’s just keeping my head down, keep working, and like I said, I’m very excited to be with the Nets. It’s really a great organization. So for me, my journey has been a lot of ups and downs but more so becoming a better player. That’s my biggest thing.”

Following his draft selection, Hands did not put too much thought into where he would be playing. Whether Brooklyn or in Long Island, he was excited just to be drafted. According to Hands, he didn’t know the intricacies of NBA contracts — and the possibility that he’d be headed to Long Island for his rookie season. Once things started to unfold after Summer League, he realized that he would be playing for Long Island, not Brooklyn.

“I know, for me, I got drafted and I was very excited. I went to Summer League and I was actually in Brooklyn for a very long time,” Hands explained. “I was just really excited being drafted by a great organization that I didn’t really put too much time into where I would play but when stuff started to unfold, I kind of realized that I would be down here. I am just excited to be here and get better. The coaches are really good and so is the organization so I am just excited.”

Whether he’s with the Brooklyn Nets or the Long Island Nets, Hands says he’s already sensed that the organization is “one big family.”

That was very much evident, he said, when he worked out with Kyrie Irving and Spencer Dinwiddie. He learned a lot about the game and particularly the point guard position. He spent a lot of the summer with them in L.A, working out, scrimmaging against the best. He also got to know them pretty well.

“I was with them all summer,” Hands told NetsDaily. “I got to Long Island literally two weeks ago and I was living in Brooklyn, working out with them; over the summer in LA. So I got to know them pretty well. They are really good.”

“I asked a lot of questions,” Hands said. “Just an observation, you don’t see how fast Kyrie really is until you’re there in person. You don’t realize how strong he is in the legs, how much intricate, how educated he is with finishing, how much comes from his legs and just positioning and how on point he is.”

“Spencer, how talented he is,” Hands added. “You can see how strong people really are in person. Their work ethic and it’s really great to just be there and experience it.”

Now, he hopes to take what the learned from the masters and utilize it in his own game, starting this week in the Nets camp at the Yes, We Can Community Center in North Hempstead, home of Long Island’s practice facility.

“This is a new experience for me,” Hands explained. “I never done it before, playing in the G League, but I actually like it a lot. The coaches really care. They are right about what they preach that Brooklyn and Long Island are one big family. The same things we did in Brooklyn are the same things we do here so I really like it.”

Shaun Fein, the Long Island Nets new head coach, sees a lot of potential in Hands. He’s working with him on point guard skills and teaching him the Nets system.

“Jaylen is still a young point guard and is learning our system,” Shaun Fein told NetsDaily. “I think he is very explosive when he has space and the things we are working on with him is becoming a point guard and organizing the team. When to take his shots and getting other guys involved. He is still learning some things but he has a lot of talent so we can work with that.”

Hands, of course, sees this as only the beginning of his NBA career. Hands wants both Nets team to be successful this season and develop his game too. He does not know when he will puts on a Brooklyn Nets uniform but hinted that it could be soon. For now, he just wants to show people that he is Jaylen Hands, not just a second round draft pick.

“I love basketball,” he said. “That’s what I do, live, breathe, and eat. I like music a lot. I am just a cool person. I am really excited to be here and get better. I want the [Brooklyn] Nets to do great, I want us [Long Island] to do great. I want everyone to do their thing and have a great overall experience this season.”

“I want to be a player in this league for a long time,” Hands told NetsDaily. “That’s my only thing. I do not know when that time is going to come. I think it is soon. Just keep my head down, working, show people that I am me, Jaylen Hands.”