This past weekend, I had the opportunity to talk to Oklahoma City Blue guard Justin Jaworski and ask him a few questions.
Jaworski attended High School in Pennsylvania where he was a multi-sport star. On the basketball court, he was a sharpshooting guard. On the football field, he was an elite receiver. Jaworski had only two offers from D1 programs for basketball: Lafayette and American. Whereas he had over 20 offers to play college football. Despite the lack of offers, Jaworski’s passion for the game made it an easy decision. He committed to Lafeyette to play basketball in 2017.
Jaworski shined at Lafeyette. He started his entire sophomore, junior, and senior seasons and put up great numbers throughout his collegiate career. Jaworski averaged double-digit point totals every year he was there. But in his senior season is when it all came together. Jaworski was named to First-Team All-Patriot League while averaging 21.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists on 46/40/91 splits. On top of that, he finished the season among the nation’s top 10 leading scorers per game.
Jaworski is one of the most efficient shooters in Lafeyette history. He holds the record for 3-point percentage in a season (48.9% his sophomore season) and the record for free throw percentage in a season (91.3% his senior season).
After Jaworski’s great season, he decided to forgo his last year of eligibility and enter the 2021 NBA draft. Many analysts projected Jaworski to be selected in the mid to late 2nd round. Yet, Jaworski went undrafted.
Despite this setback, Jaworski was still high on NBA team’s radars. He joined the Atlanta Hawks summer league squad that summer. Shortly after, Jaworski signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder but was waived one day later. He subsequently joined their G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue.
In his first and only year with the OKC Blue, Jaworski averaged 9.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists on 41/38/96 splits. Very efficient for a first-year player. However, in the last few games of the season, Jaworski had the opportunity to show what he’s got. He started playing heavier minutes and made them count. Jaworski put up 10 or more points in six of his last seven games while continuing his efficient stroke.
Here’s the interview:
Q: Just 2 D1 offers in basketball but over 20 offers in football. You took a chance on your game and it paid off. Did you ever consider going the football route?
A: I entertained playing football, but I knew I loved basketball more, so it was really an easy decision for me to bet on myself and pursue the basketball route.
Q: You’ve overcome a lot just to get to the G League. The ultimate goal is to obviously make it to the NBA. What is the struggle of trying to be picked up by a G League team and then trying to be recognized by an NBA team for a chance to earn a 10-day contract? What has this process looked like for you over the course of your career?
A: A lot of the NBA and the G League is about timing and opportunity. The biggest struggle is not necessarily getting the opportunity you feel you deserve right away. That’s been my whole life though having to prove people wrong who overlooked me at first, so this process really isn’t anything new.
Q: No one questions the strongest part of your game is the 3-point shooting. You shot 42% from 3 in college, and have continued the efficient shooting in the G League with 37.5% shooting. As a rookie, that’s ridiculous. I’d also like to say that I hate when a good shooter’s percentage doesn’t translate to the charity stripe, and the fact that you are shooting 91% this year from the line really cements your elite shooting. Tell me a little bit about the shooter’s mentality and the journey to becoming such an elite shooter.
A: 100% of shooting confidence comes from preparation in the offseason. I spend a lot of time working on my game, so that gives me the confidence to take and make shots. I finished the regular season at 38% from 3 this year, I’m looking to get that number over 40% for next season.
Q: There is no question that the G League hosts tremendous talents. Yet, it still lacks the popularity it deserves. Why do fans sleep on the G League, how can they get more involved, and how important is it for fans to be involved with their local G League team?
A: I think a lot of people just haven’t been exposed to the G. Similar to WNBA basketball, I think if people just gave it a shot and invested time watching it, they won’t regret it. Certain markets are better than others, and as players, I know we love the atmosphere when people are there. It also gives fans an opportunity to connect with players before they become more popular in the league.
Q: When I look at the OKC Blue roster, I see that almost the entire roster went to Power 5 schools like Texas Tech, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, etc. You put up great numbers on Lafayette but at the end of the day your competition wasn’t exactly the nation’s top talent. Did people ever disregard your skill at Lafayette and how did you attempt to gain the recognition and the national attention that you deserved? Especially from scouts?
A: I’m sure a lot of people overlooked me because I came from a smaller school. For me, that doesn’t really matter, because all I need is one person to believe in me and give me a shot, and I believe I can compete with the best players in the world. Once everyone is on the court together, it doesn’t matter where you came from, just whether or not you can play, and I think I proved that in the second half of the season once I got my opportunity.