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For Jaylen Hands, next steps beckon ... and he says he’s ready wherever they lead

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Chris Milholen, who covers the G League for NetsDaily, caught up with Jaylen Hands who’s spent the shutdown trying to improve his game ... and be ready for his next step.

Jaylen Hands situation, a year after he was taken by the Nets deep in the second round of the 2019 Draft, remains unclear.

He spent his rookie season in Uniondale with the Long Island Nets, averaging 11.3 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.0 steals in 22.6 minutes per game. He shot 35 percent from deep and 42 percent overall, starting 19 of the 41 games he played.

Now, back home in San Diego, his future is TBD, to be determined. He’s never been on the Brooklyn roster, instead becoming the organization’s first domestic “stash.” The Nets retain his NBA and G League rights. But no matter what his next step, wherever it leads, the 6’3” point guard say he’s ready...

“What motivates me is me,” Hands stated via text. “I want to be the best me. I want to play basketball at its highest level possible. I’m living out my dream, But I want more. It still doesn’t feel real to me that I was drafted by the Brooklyn Nets!!! ... and I’m excited to build on that. I’m motivated to have an NBA career and to take care of myself and my loved ones. I want to win something. I’m excited to keep growing, listening, and learning.”

And that includes a training regimen that allowed him to improve in one of the areas where he’s been seen as lacking, strength. Since the G League was postponed and eventually canceled, Hands has worked out, often alone. Long Island’s rookie guard has also used the time off to spend time with his family.

“Since the season ended, I’ve gotten straight to work,” Hands said. “There’s a lot of areas of my game that I want to improve and I’ve used this time to address them. I’ve also gotten time to spend with my family which has meant a lot to me.”

Hands, who weighed in at 175 pounds before the start of the G League season, has progressively improved his physique since his pro career got underway. Building muscle and mass has been a main goal for Hands. He’s already hyper-athletic. After reaching 190 lbs for the first time in his life, he feels great, loves the direction he is heading, and has been working out six days a week.

“I have been very intent on a number of things, Hands said. “The first is I want to be stronger. I’ve gotten up to 190 pounds with a heavy emphasis on my lower body.”

“Yes, I’ve been lifting six days a week. I’ve put a lot of focus on my lower body. I’ve been focusing on my balance. I’ve incorporated sand workouts, running, yoga, and plyometrics (jump training) along with weights. I’ve gained good weight and have reached 190 pounds for the first time in my life. I love the direction I’m heading and I’m feeling great.”

Hands hasn’t only put in work on the beach and in the weight room. He and his father initially went from outdoor court to outdoor court to work out. Then, when the courts were shut down, the two shot around the family’s backyard court.

He has also dived into film provided by his Long Island coaches. Outside of watching and learning from his own film, the Nets guard has watched film of NBA players who have similar frames and playing styles, paying specific attention to their defensive play wanting to be a sponge, soaking up everything.

“I’ve gotten film from my coaches to further my decision-making,” Hands said. “I’ve personally dived into film of guys like De’Anthony Melton, Dejounte Murray, Delon Wright, and Derrick White to see how they pursue screens and use their hands and feet to defend. I’m putting time into the gym to keep my shot and handle intact. I’ve been a sponge to any and everything. I’m really excited about my growth during this time down and I will continue to get better.”

As for his experience with the Nets G League affiliate, Hands said he’s learned a lot in his time in Uniondale. He appreciates the opportunity and credits the staff for helping him develop and learn the NBA game.

Still only 21, Hands noted how working out with Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, and Kyrie Irving last summer expanded his knowledge of the game. The experience, he believes, proved the UCLA product can play on and off the ball with pace, and fill that niche on the NBA level.

“Last season was great for me,” Hands said. “I’m very thankful and appreciative for my time in Long Island. The staff was great and I got to play with some really good, experienced guys. I got to learn the NBA game. Brooklyn and Long Island do a fantastic job of developing. I got to spend the summer working with guys like Spencer [Dinwiddie] , Caris [LeVert], and Kyrie [Irving], and I learned a lot from it.

“I believe I took a lot of steps forward in Long Island. I’m confident in the niche I can fill at an NBA level. I can play on and off the ball with pace. I can shoot, I am a growing defender. I ended the season really stepping into that role. My biggest takeaway moving forward is to take what I’ve learned and continue to get better and learn.”

While the 21 year-old guard is taking big steps outside the bright lights, his motivation comes from within. That fuels his fire to get better. Although Hands didn’t state his current or future status with the Nets, he is living his dream but the dream, he feels, is nowhere near the end. Hands wants more and has his aspirations set on having an NBA career, caring for his loved ones, and continuing to grow.