With a revamped roster, the league’s No. 1 overall draft pick, a brand-new practice facility, and lessons learned from their first season, Jazz Gaming entered its second year looking to take a major leap forward. At the midway point of the season, the squad is coming off a third-place finish at the Turn tournament in Las Vegas. Now, with a 4-3 record, the team sets it sights on the playoffs.
Jazz Gaming’s Shaka Browne (Yeah I Compete), Spencer Wyman (Ria), Alontae Proctor (Gliz) and Kevin Fennelly (KevDontMiss) sat down this week to discuss the highs and lows of the season so far.
YEAH I COMPETE: We’ve definitely been looking for a bounce-back year. We feel like we’ve achieved a lot to this point. We’re 4-3. Started out 0-2 and then went on a four-game win streak. We didn’t win a game, in terms of winning money, in the tournaments last year, so that was a big achievement for us this year.
RIA: On the stage we are definitely one unit. That four-game win streak really showed it. We had a tough loss last week, but we’ll try to bounce back against the Nets this week.
GLIZ: I love my teammates. I love the atmosphere out here. It’s chill.
HAS THE NEW PRACTICE SPACE INSIDE VIVINT SMART HOME ARENA HELPED?
GLIZ: It’s cool. We’re in an NBA arena. We can come in here whenever we want.
YEAH I COMPETE: The practice facility has done wonders in terms of our preparation. When we come into practice, we really want to practice. Last year, there was like a doom and gloom for practice. You come one foot in, one foot out. You were there because you had to be. Now we come in and we want to work.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING THE TOP OVERALL DRAFT PICK THIS YEAR, RIA?
RIA: I was pretty positive I was going No. 1, so the excitement wasn’t there leading up to it. But when it happened, I was like, “Wow! I went No. 1!” It was pretty cool for me. … You meet a couple of people and then you go backstage and there’s a bunch of media lined up for you. That was the first time I’d done media. It was weird but it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. There are a bunch of guys and cameras, but it wasn’t that bad at all.
IS THERE PRESSURE BEING THE TOP PICK?
RIA: I think, initially, yeah. But as the season’s gone on, I think it’s kind of died down a little bit. I just play the game.
YEAH I COMPETE: I think he’s handled it amazingly. When you come in with that immense amount of pressure being the NO. 1 pick, there’s a lot of expectations. People are going to look at your stats. But sometimes contributing to wins doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. Spence sacrificed, playing a lesser archetype to make it easier for everyone else. He’s been a big reason for our success thus far.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR GAME?
RIA: It depends. I thrive on defense. I play my role. Just let other guys on the team play to the best of their abilities.
DO YOU COMPARE TO AN NBA PLAYER?
RIA: NBA players are more complete. When you’re playing 2K, you’re more one dimensional. But if I were to say anyone, it would be like a Karl-Anthony Towns or Joel Embiid.
GLIZ: I’m like a Blake Griffin with a Draymond Green. I like to go in for the big dunks, but I like to shoot the 3s like Steph Curry. You feel what I’m saying? Draymond Green for defense and playmaking. I’m try to be an all-around power forward.
KEV CAME IN AS A SIXTH-MAN AND HAS TAKEN ON A BIGGER ROLE. HOW HAS HE HANDLED THAT TRANSITION?
YEAH I COMPETE: Kev has always been ready for whenever his number is called. Even when Gliz was out of the Tipoff Tournament. Kev wasn’t expecting to play but then he had two days before the tournament to prepare. You ask him to play the hardest position in the league, point guard, and he shined.
KEVDONTMISS: I just step up when I’m needed. My team is really supportive. We’re just kind of doing what we have to do. As the sixth man, it’s my job to step up whenever I’m needed. I’ve been playing alright. I can definitely improve.
WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE PLAYING FOR JAZZ GAMING?
RIA: They’ve got us in nice, two-bedroom apartments. They got us gym memberships and we’re always going to play basketball and workout after practice. The Jazz have been taking great care of us. I couldn’t be more thankful. … Shaka and DeMar have been extremely helpful for me. I’m 19. I don’t know how to do a lot of things on my own. This is the first time I’ve ever had to do a load of laundry on my own. Whenever I need anything, I can ask them and they’ll help me out.
WERE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR PERFORMANCE AT THE TURN IN LAS VEGAS?
YEAH I COMPETE: Vegas was amazing. Just the whole experience. Getting to hang out in Vegas, seeing the Hoover Dam, taking in all of the great activities outside of playing the game. Then playing at that amazing venue they had at the Luxor. It was the best experience. We wanted to win it all but I couldn’t have asked for a better time.
IS THERE DIFFERENCE IN THE LEAGUE THIS YEAR?
YEAH I COMPETE: Such a big jump. I’m excited for the future. Season 1, we stayed at the venue in New York. Now we’re looking at Vegas. We’ve got an E3 event coming up. Just the growth of the league gets you excited. We have 21 teams right now. I know we’ll be at 30 in no time.
WHAT IS THE TEAM’S GOAL FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON?
RIA: The main goal is the playoffs. We’re working on our seeding for the Ticket tournament. We control our own destiny. Every team in front of us is a beatable team. We’re pretty confident.
YEAH I COMPETE: Togetherness is the key. With this team, when you come together you can do amazing things. You saw that with the Knicks last year. They were struggling but they came together late and they went on a run to win the championship. We understand that we have talent here, but if we don’t have togetherness we won’t get it done.
GLIZ: The key to making the playoffs? Just keep winning.