‘TIMEOUT’ with Paris junior basketball player Jaelyn Lee
The Paris Wildcats basketball program carries plenty of success and tradition with it year in and year out. Plenty of talented players have come through the program, and skillful ball players always seem to find their way on head coach Billy Mack Steed’s roster.
Strong tradition and a huge growth spurt
Success attracts talent and talented players at Paris High School know how to work hard. Paris reached the Regional Tournament in four of the last five seasons. With that, Steed and the Wildcats expect big things from their star junior guard Jaelyn Lee. He can attack teams both at the rim and on the perimeter largely because of two things. Skills and fundamentals can be coached, and Jaelyn retained those skills. However, size cannot be coached, but Jaelyn put his size and skill together which should work in harmony this season.
“I’ve always been tall, but never this tall,” Jaelyn said. “In eighth grade, I was, like, 5-foot-10, but that’s average height, so I would always work on my guard skills. Through that summer between eighth and ninth grade, I shot up to like 6-foot-4, and the skills just kind of stayed, so I kept working on them. Then in the summer after ninth grade, I shot up some more and now I’m 6-foot-6 here in my junior year, and most of the skills are still here.”
Basketball is in his blood
Jaelyn has been able to grow into his body but the basketball DNA was always in his bloodline before he even knew what a basketball was. From the moment he was able to play, Jaelyn’s passion for the game continued to grow from there.
“My mom got pregnant with me in college, and she was a college hooper,” Jaelyn said. “So when I was born, I was already born into the basketball world and had a basketball in my hands since I could pick one up. It really all started when I was three years old when you get one of those mini-hoop things, and I fell in love with basketball ever since I started shooting on that hoop.”
It is not just fun and games on the hardwood for Jaelyn. Instead, it is the opposite. Seeing the upperclassmen uphold the standard of program success before Jaelyn helped him realize that basketball is more than just a game.
“You have to play with a purpose,” Jaelyn said. “You can’t just be out here for the fun of it. You have to be out there with a purpose.”
Jaelyn continues to strive for greatness
Not only has he seen what it takes to be great, but Jaelyn has been told how great he is capable of being. At first, the words from his coach were seen as encouragement. Now, Jaelyn sees the statements of praise as statements of fact.
“Starting as a freshman, he already told me that I could be the best that there was to come around here,” Jaelyn said. “I would just listen to it then, but now I’m really starting to see it. He keeps telling me that I can do all these things. I can go Division I, I can make it in basketball, and I’m just now starting to believe it. I’m thankful that he’s been telling me these things.”
Before his basketball career took off, Jaelyn engaged himself in other sports. Although many people are skeptical, Jaelyn remembers how kicking a ball and running around the grass field with his teammates helped him fundamentally on the hardwood in the long run.
“I played soccer until I got into my sixth-grade year in middle school. I played back forward and I was actually pretty good,” Jaelyn said. “People don’t believe me when I tell them I was pretty good at soccer, but that’s where my footwork comes from.”
Staying on the court through thick and thin
Unfortunately, Jaelyn’s footwork was not able to bail him out of an unfortunate defensive lapse during a lively basketball game in Dallas.
“It was an AAU game and we were in Dallas,” Jaelyn said. “I was guarding a guard in a full-court press. He did a behind-the-back move and there was another player there right beside me. When he dribbled it behind his back, I fell to the ground and there were a bunch of people there in the crowd ‘ooh-ing’ and ‘aah-ing.’ It made me blush a little bit. If you were there, you couldn’t see it, but it made me blush a little bit. I was kind of sad that it happened, but I got back up and kept playing.”
Whenever times get tough, Jaelyn likes to go to the place he spends most of his time with the person who introduced him to the game he loves the most.
“My happy place is going to the gym with my mom,” Jaelyn said. “Every time I go to the gym, my mom is always there to rebound for me and to talk me through whatever I’m going through. It makes me feel good and relieves my stress overall.”
Loading up for another hopeful season full of wins and laughs
The Wildcats will soon load the buses multiple times during the upcoming hoops season with success on their minds. Although a successful year, last season featured both wins and plenty of laughs along the way.
“We were on the bus one night last year coming back from an away game,” Jaelyn said. “We were right over there by the gate, and the gate was locked, so Coach Steed asked Coach (Roy Tom) Stone to go open the gate. Well, Coach Steed is a jokester so he turned on the reverse gear, and the bus started beeping. Then, Coach Stone started running. And Coach Stone, you know, is kind of old, so seeing him run was the funniest thing. We weren’t even backing up either. It was so funny. We were all laughing for, like, 20 minutes straight after that.”
Jaelyn will gear up with his Wildcat teammates as Paris will open its season at 5 p.m. Friday at Melissa. For more sports coverage, click here.