Jerami Grant was born into an NBA family -- his father, Harvey, and his uncle, Horace, both had long careers (a combined 1,948 regular season games) at that level -- but the 6-foot-8 forward says it took him two seasons at Syracuse to hone the work ethic and commitment required to be an elite player.
Grant declared for the NBA draft this spring after averaging 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds as a sophomore for the Orange. He reflected on the value of his college experience with SI.com.
SI: What are the most valuable things you learned at Syracuse?
JG: I think I learned the value of winning. My first year we had a Final Four run, and my last year we had the best start in Syracuse history, starting off 25-0. I definitely think winning is something that is hard to teach, but it's something I learned at Syracuse, and going forward, I definitely think teams and scouts value winning and being able to pull out games in tough situations.
SI: When do you think you got that understanding at Syracuse?
JG: At the end of the regular season my freshman year, we lost [four out of five]. As soon as that was over, we pulled it together as a team and we went on a Big East run [to the tournament finals] and an NCAA run. I definitely think after that, it showed the value of winning and how you can turn your switch on, no matter what the circumstances are.
SI: From a strictly basketball perspective, what are the top things you developed while you were there that got you where you are now?
JG: I learned to play hard, in every situation. In high school, guys can get away with playing at a slower pace, or playing and only exerting a certain amount of energy. When I got to Syracuse, I knew it was going to be tough, playing behind a bunch of great forwards. I just learned that giving it your all on every play is something that's going to get you to play a lot more. Also, my shooting touch has gotten a lot better, and my ballhandling as well.
SI: What were the key moments, in games or the offseason, that were mileposts for you at Syracuse?
JG: Definitely in the offseason, as soon as the season was over, maybe taking a couple days off and then getting in the gym at every morning at 6 a.m., going twice a day. [Syracuse assistant] Adrian Autry pushed me to get to the point where I am today. Key moments are me waking up every morning, no matter what I did the day before, no matter how tired I was, always waking up at 5:30 and going to the gym to get ready to work out at 6.
SI: Were there a couple big games, important to you or the team, that stand out?
JG: One of the games that sticks out to me is our first game that we played Duke on our court. It was the biggest [crowd] in Syracuse history, to this point. That was a huge game for our whole team and for Syracuse as a whole and especially for me. I had a pretty good game and I definitely think that was one of the greatest games I've been a part of.
SI: You had a career-high 24 points that night in a 91-89 overtime win. What do you remember about the next 24 hours or so?
JG: I just remember going to eat with my parents – a lot of people were excited at the restaurant we went to, a lot of people were cheering me on. It was just a great feeling to know I had so many supporters behind me, and just to know our team has so many supporters and fans that loved us and were going to stick with us.
SI: How would you summarize your time at Syracuse in terms of how it prepared you for this stage? JG: It was just the value of winning and working hard. There's a lot of talented people in the NBA, obviously. Everyone in the NBA is extremely talented. But something you can't really teach is work ethic. It's something you just have to know how to do. I definitely had a work ethic before, but at Syracuse I was able to take it to another level and to work on my game as much as possible.