Reggie Hearn was taking part in a game of 3-on-3 with the new G League Ignite in October when he got shocked by a teenager. The onetime Detroit Pistons guard with a strong, 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame was caught off guard when a slender 18-year-old named Jalen Green muscled him out of the way and dunked on him.
“Jalen drove baseline one or two dribbles, and I was right on his hip. And he gave me a quick little shoulder, which was surprising,” Hearn told The Undefeated in a phone interview about his G League teammate. “He just gave me a quick little shoulder to the chest, knocked me off balance a little bit and he went up two hands, two feet and just dunked on me.
“I said, ‘Wow. OK.’ I had watched some highlights of the guys before I came here and I saw he could get up. But it’s different dunking on a fast break than it is driving baseline, giving someone a shoulder and dunking with two hands and two feet in traffic. That’s when I knew for the first time he was legit. … The kid can flat-out play.”
While college basketball freshmen have shined during the pandemic, Green is doing his work as the face of the G League’s new development program. The potential No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft turned down Kentucky, Arizona, Memphis, Auburn, Oregon and other colleges to become the first high school player to join the Ignite, which is allowing teenage draft prospects an opportunity to play exhibition games against fellow G League teams and focus on player development over one season. Green is being paid $600,000 for joining the program, which is coached by former NBA player and coach Brian Shaw.
The Ignite have been training in Walnut Creek, California, but will finally take to the court in early February at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. G League players will need to pass four COVID-19 tests before clearing quarantine and will also be tested daily. Green can’t wait to make his professional debut.