As an athlete, you reach a point where you have to decide if you want to take it to the next level. In basketball there is a multitude of ways to continue a career in basketball, now with prep schools becoming more popular in the United States, you are able to make this decision as early as high school! With mainstream media outlets mainly pushing organizations like the NCAA and NBA it’s easy to forget that professional athletes are also all over the globe.
Currently playing in Portugal for Clube Atletico Queluz, Malik Jacobs has built himself into a force overseas looking to take his basketball career as far as he can. In his first year playing professional basketball, he may be new to the pro scene but people forget it takes a lifetime of grind and work to reach the pro level.
Malik Allen: How old are you, and how long have you been playing basketball?
Malik Jacobs: I am 25. I’ve been playing basketball since I was in the 7th grade.
M.A.: How would you say the basketball scene around you was growing up?
M.J.: It was good, I believe Dayton is one of the most underrated hoop cities. There’s so many players that go on and play at the next level from there.
M.A.: I have said that to a lot of people, even at the college level a lot of people come out of Dayton. Speaking of, high school basketball has grown a huge spotlight on it, especially now with college players being able to earn money. It seems like the recruiting is becoming younger and younger. Are you one that believes playing college basketball helped you get to where you are?
M.J.: Yes, for sure. The way it’s structured and the discipline it teaches you in order to be successful, not just as a player but a student, prepares you for balancing life. Also coming into college you start at the bottom and have to work your way up in the program. It’s the same when trying to play professionally. There are guys just as good as you, so you have to find ways to separate yourself.
M.A.: Which makes a ton of sense. I was a college athlete as well and I can agree the challenges and obstacles you face in college are hard to replicate anywhere else unless you do go straight to the pros. You made it through college averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds your last year at Urbana University. You are now in your 1st year of professional basketball. Did you ever picture playing basketball in another country, and when did that become a comfortable decision for you?
M.J.: I always dreamed about playing pro ever since I started. Of course in the states we look up to the NBA more, so I didn’t think about overseas a lot. But once I got to college I saw the possibility of playing professionally in other countries. Also for me I always wanted to travel so I made it my goal then.
M.A.: I have never been out of the country, just recently got my passport! Tell a little about where you are located.
M.J.: I’m in Portugal now, it’s beautiful here. The weather here is great, almost no lower than 60 degrees everyday. The team I play for is near Lisbon which is the capital, so there’s so many things to do and places to see.
M.A.: Now that you have some games under your belt, what would say are the biggest differences playing in another country compared to here in the states?
M.J.: The biggest difference is the physicality. Being an American player, the referees don’t call a lot of fouls for us. The players from here are able to get away with fouling us harder or doing little cheap shots because they know referees will not call it on them. So adjusting to that has been the biggest thing.
M.A.: Being this far into your journey, I wanted to ask was playing basketball as a career always the main goal for you?
M.J.: Yes, once I started and got better I knew it was something I wanted to do not only in college but afterwards.
M.A.: After completing that goal of making basketball a career, who/what do you credit?
M.J.: Just being passionate about playing and also just working hard to make my dream job come true.
M.A.: I’m sure being a pro yourself, there has to be someone you model your game after or just enjoy watching for inspiration, right?
M.J.: Easy, the GOAT, LeBron James! He’s an all-around player so I try to have that mindset of doing a little bit of everything. But I watch all the players about the same and just try to learn and take things from their games (as well).
M.A.: When I think about the journey of completing goals, I always think about what I would tell myself at a younger age to give myself the needed confidence or just info I wish I had then. If I had a time machine shipped to you in Portugal, what would you tell Malik in 7th grade when he first started hooping?
M.J.: I would say play for yourself and for the love of the game. I think a lot of people, especially younger kids, play for either social media attention, validation from others, or other materialistic things. So over time they start to lose the love and motivation to want to get better and ultimately just burn out and stop playing. I would never want to lose the passion to play.
M.A.: I love to hear that. Enjoying the grind and knowing what it takes to reach your goals ultimately comes to you, not Instagram or a new shoe deal. As we wrap this up, what does your future look like with basketball and beyond?
M.J.: As of right now I haven’t thought too much about it (beyond playing). I’m hoping to improve each season and be able to move up into higher leagues as my career progresses. I just want to play in numerous countries and compete at a high level.
M.A.: I appreciate you taking the time and good luck to you the rest of the year, everyone here at Blaze is excited to watch your journey!
To the kids that are still grinding, and the young adults still chasing that first contract, know it takes a lot! But it is possible with belief in yourself and paying attention to what YOU have to do to reach that next level.