“Amare Stoudemire was my role model” – Maccabi center Jalen Reynolds returns to the Yellow & Blue

Sep 29, 2021 | Podcasts

Maccabi Tel Aviv center Jalen Reynolds joined The Sports Rabbi to look ahead at the new 21/22 season and his return to the Yellow & Blue. We also spoke about his time at Bayern Munich where he spread his wings as a player and a person, the NCAA tourney with Xavier along with his time at Barcelona, Zenit and much more.

The text of the interview is below.

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ג'יילן ריינולדס

What’s it like to be back with Maccabi?
It feels good to be back. This is definitely like a second home to me and I enjoyed playing here in the past. I’m looking forward to the new season and what is has to offer us.

How did your return to Tel Aviv come about?
I showcased my talents here two years ago and I tried my best to help the team both on and off the court. I think they noticed my talent as well last year and from the year before and brought me back. I’m happy to be back where I am made to feel welcome. It’s a good thing to feel wanted. The weather is great, the people are good and the food as well. You can’t go wrong. 

Jalen Reynolds – Dov Halickman Photograhy

What was the highlight for you when you were here back a couple of years ago?
How together the organization is and how professional they are. Playing for Coach Sfairopoulos again is such a great feeling because I also know the system and what he expects from his players. It’s going to be a good year for us and chance to jump back into it and get it back the way it should be here at Maccabi. I am ready to showcase my talents and help my teammates as much as I can.

How have you changed since you last played with Maccabi?
I think my game has definitely matured. I want to possibly carve out that leadership role, help some of the young players on the team and lead my example on the court. Hopefully that will rub off on some of the younger players and they can emulate what I am doing. 

Where have you developed as a player?
Being more of a leader and my shot has gotten a lot better. Reading situations and just being more locked in. Not just try to be an offensive player but also one on defense as well.

Jalen Reynolds – Dov Halickman Photograhy

What were your feelings when things just stopped because of Covid?
When everything stopped last year it was a terrible feeling. All I know is basketball and family. when basketball stopped it changed my outlook on basketball. It made you realize don’t take anything for granted because it can be taken away from you at any moment. Every player that plays basketball realizes that and just how important this sport is to each and every individual.
Were you disappointed that you weren’t part of the teams plans for the end of the Israeli league season?
I wasn’t disappointed at all because I understand that thins a business and they have to do what they have to do for the organization. But that made me want to show what I can bring to an organization like this and they realized that really quickly.  

Who was the most important person that helped you take the steps you did with Bayern last season?
I think it was more so me being hungry and how bad I really wanted it. I was just focusing in on my negative parts of my game and just trying to turn them into positives. Just overall wanting to be better. You can say this and that, but how badly do you really want it and are you willing to out that work in. To work on your weaknesses and turn them into your strengths and I think that as very beneficial for me last year. Putting in those extra hours in the gym when no one is watching and just being locked in during games.

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Euroleague.net

How was your relationship with coach Trinchieri?
It was great working with him. We obviously bumped heads. I think I’m right, he knows he is right. Overall the man knows basketball and I can’t take that away from him. He is a good coach and he never told me anything wrong. He really truly cares about his guys and will go to battle for his guys and that’s good for me if you go to battle for me, I’ll go to battle for you. 

What slowed things down for you at the end of last season?
I think just the whole COVID thing and just thinking about family. It was a long year and just the way everything was going  with people dying. I think that affected everybody. Also playing without fans was a big deal or me not having our 6th man. It’s a good feeling to have the fans there when you are making your shots.

What was the high point of the Bayern season?
When we figured it out and shutting all the critics up. Everybody thought we weren’t going to make this and make that. I try not to look at that type of stiff and I stayed off the internet as far as the comments and what people expected for us because we are the ones putting the work isn day in and day out. We focussed on each other and trying to get better. I think that was the most important thing in keeping the unit and sticking together and not really looking on the outside and what everybody is talking about. 

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

How did you get into basketball?
I was too tall to do anything else and I was rapidly growing so for me it was something I fell in love with and I just stuck with it not thinking that I could do this on this level that I am now. If you would have told me that when I was in 5th grade I would have said you’re joking. To say that I would be able to go play basketball and you’re going to excel and you’re going to be wanted. I think that it’s a great feeling inside to be able to do what you love day win and day out. 

Did you have any role models or players that you patterned your game after?
It’s funny you ask that because he was actually my teammate two years ago, Amare Stoudemire. I always wanted to emulate what he does and be that force on the court. I don’t know if I ever told him that because we were teammates and we were battling for position on the spot. Overall him and Dwight Howard I kind of modeled my game after. Nowadays all the bigs want to shoot, like KD (Kevin Durant) and Kristaps Porzingis, they are such good shooters.

What was the experience like at Brewster?
It was a great experience not knowing what I was getting myself into being so far away from home in New Hampshire which was kind of like in the middle of nowhere. I won the championship with those guys and hopefully we can get back together at some point.

Jalen Reynolds – Dov Halickman Photograhy

How was Xavier?
Xavier stuck out to me because it wasn’t so far away from home. I had a good time, I wish things could have been a lot different. I did my best that I could to get where I wanted to go which is the NBA. Tip my hat to Xavier.  

What did you learn from Chris Mack at Xavier?
Being a gym freak and staying in the gym. Working and trying to be better to get to the next level. Our birthday is on the same day which was another reason why I had to come there. He loves the sport and he used to be a dog on the court and a good player. He had a hunger for the game. 

You made the NCAA tourney 3 times how was that like?
It’s an undesirable feeling to out all that work in and have it pay off the way it did. To beat U of C (Cincinnati) all those years I was there that’s obviously a big rivalry and I tip my hat to say that we never lost to them which is something I’ll take the rest of my life. 

You played with Kaiser Gates who signed with Hapoel Jerusalem what can you tell us about him?
That’s my guy. Everybody has their own paths but when we get together its like we never left. He is the definition of hard work. He is going to shock the world. He is such a good player and he was never given his opportunity but you got to start from the bottom and work your way up. Nothing in this world is easy and they’re damn sure not going to give it to you for free. That kid can play, he’s strong, athletic, can shoot and run the floor. He’s smart and he’s a good player, I am looking forward to playing against him.

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Any Xavier game stick out in your mind?
Making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. That as a heck of an accomplishment for us and an undesirable feeling. Being with that group of guys, I don’t think Xavier would ever be the same. I wish them the best of luck, but that era that we were in was an era a dying breed. We had every weapon that you could possibly recruit. College basketball was fun. Now it’s just not the same. Guys coming right out of college and going to the NBA, are these guys really ready? There are a lot of good players and I too my hat to everyone who made it to the NBA because obviously that is the main goal when you are playing basketball. 

Is the NBA still a goal?
I’m definitely open to the opportunity but I am enjoying playing basketball in Europe and I am having a lot of fun here. I’ve carved out a space for myself to showcase my talents and people are excited to see what I am going to do and what we are going to do. There is no I in team, what we are going to do this year.

How was it in Italy?
I loved Italy and its holds a special place in my heart. The food is great and I love how the dress. The whole atmosphere, it’s a warm welcome.

You spent time with Barcelona at the end of Juan Carlos Navarro’s career.
I came in and I didn’t know what to expect as I had never been to Spain. I wanted to help and I played pretty solid. It was fun to watch those guys play and how hard they play. From Tomic, Heurtel and Rakim Sanders. I looked up to him a lot because he is form a similar background. How hard he played and how good he was. Great coach, good organization over there. I enjoyed Barcelona.

Gal Mekel – Photo Credit: Dov Halickman

Zenit St. Petersburg you played with Brandon Jennings and Gal Mekel what was that like?
Brandon Jennings was such a talented individual, the way he saw the floor and rewarded his bigs, that’s the key to looking in with your big men. Such a great player and such a smart guy, I really enjoyed playing with him. We had a good time, he taught me a lot, he is something else. He was something to watch and was so special. 

Gal was a great teammate and such a nice dude. Family oriented guy and does all the right things, there were no errors with that guy. Such a good guy always talking about life and basketball. I loved being around him with good energy and on the court he was a heck of an athlete. He went in for contact and also passed me the dime many times, so I loved that. Very humble guy.

Playing with some old faces and some new back at Maccabi It’s kind of an open book and we don’t really know what to expect. That’s the beauty of it because everybody is talented. Once we figure it out and out the pieces to the puzzle together, the skies the limit for this team. I am very excited and everybody on this team loves to hustle and work hard. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what this team has to offer and I’m feeling really good about it. From what it was last year to how it was, I think we are going to be a lot better.

I played against a few of the guys and I worked out with Keenan Evans in Dallas a few times. He’s a good guy and solid. I played against Derrick Williams and he is a freakish athlete. He’s great player, a warrior. I’m going to Hashtag #WARRIOR on that. Scottie and how he can shoot the ball at such a high level. We just got to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I’m looking forward to it.

גביע ווינר

Jalen Reynolds – Photo Credit: Basket.co.il

What are your personal and team goals going forward this season and beyond?
Just keep working hard and carve out that leader role and help the guys as much as I can and just listening more. Listening is a big key to winning. Locking in on defense and focus on defense.

Euroleague or NBA? 

Favorite NBA Team
?Detroit Pistons. I think Cade Cunningham was a great pick. He’s got the total package. 

Sneakers on the floor?
Jordans. 11s, 12s or 10s.
Off the floor?

New Puma threads?
I’m loving them. I’m loving the colors and the style. I feel swaggy right now It’s not just a simple jersey it has some nice swag to it. They put some thought into it and the material is good. Shout out to Puma. 

Are you going to add a star with ’22 on it for a championship?
Let’s hope so, I’ve got one on me already. 

Story about a tattoo:
My daughter on my arm because she is always on may mind and my blood running through and it’s close to my heart. 
My mother’s initials are on the back of my legs because I love my mother so much. She is always in my ind as well and is a fantastic cook. I miss all the meals and being away from family due to my job, but it’s a sacrifice that we make. 

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