College Sports

‘Hard to put it to words’: Hoops phenom Ja Morant gets hero’s welcome in SC hometown

Watch: Ja Morant Day features dunks, smiles and fun at Crestwood High School

Sumter County held Ja Morant Day for the Murray State standout and future NBA lottery pick on Monday, April 8, 2019.
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Sumter County held Ja Morant Day for the Murray State standout and future NBA lottery pick on Monday, April 8, 2019.

At an early age, Dwayne Edwards said Ja Morant could always entertain a crowd. The rest of the nation has learned the same thing.

Morant, who played for Edwards at Crestwood High School, became a household name during the 2018-19 college basketball season and his highlights routinely made ESPN’s SportsCenter.

But on Monday, the future NBA lottery pick was dazzling the crowds again at his old stomping grounds at Crestwood High for Ja Morant Day. He donned his old purple Crestwood No. 12 jersey as PA announcer Donnie Lowery grabbed the microphone and — just like in Morant’s high school days — and belted out, “Now playing at guard, No. 12, Ja Morant!”

“This was an amazing event, how many people came out,” said Morant’s mom, Jamie. “It just showed you the type of person Ja is. Sumter County, city of Dalzell gave him support and it is not only his family.”

Morant received a key to the city from Sumter and a doorstop from the Sumter County Council. He was also given a trophy to commemorate being Crestwood’s all-time leading scorer.

Morant spoke briefly to the hundreds in attendance and also took pictures with those in attendance. He concluded the event by putting on a dunking display, which included jumping over his dad Tee and uncle Phil Morant.

“He is about to transcend Sumter, Dalzell ... and take this area to a national level that nobody has seen before,” Phil Morant said.

Morant said he was humbled by the outpouring of support he got, not only Monday but throughout his high school and college career at Murray State. Some in attendance were sporting Morant’s No. 12 Murray State jersey, and his cousin Marcell Wiley had a No. 12 autographed hat.

“It is really an indescribable feeling right now,” Morant said. “It is hard to put it to words. When my dad told me they were doing to do this, I was speechless. To have everyone come out and support me on this big day, I really appreciate everything.”

Morant was a consenus All-American in his sophomore year at Murray State and was named the Lute Olson Player of the Year as well as a finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year award. He averaged 24.5 points and 10 assists this season in leading the Racers to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and became the first player since assists became official in 1983-84 to average 20 points and 10 assists per game

Morant had 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds in the first-round win over Marquette, just the ninth triple-double in NCAA Tournament history.

Morant declared for NBA Draft last week and the next few months will get him ready for the NBA Draft on June 20. He already has signed with an agent, Tandem Sports, and they were in attendance with their client.

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