It’s no secret the Rhode Island Rams (13-12, 4-9) are struggling mightily in recent weeks, losing eight of nine Atlantic 10 games as they head to the Reilly Center to face surging St. Bonaventure (17-7, 9-4).
A bright spot, however, is the play of redshirt sophomore guard Jalen Carey (5.2ppg, 1.8rpg) who is exhibiting greater comfort and consistency as the season progresses. After shaking off a calf injury which caused him to miss some time in December, Carey has emerged as a key rotation piece.
Averaging 14.6 minutes per game on the year, the Harlem, NY native is playing closer to 20 per game over his last five contests. His assists are up, his turnovers down – and he’s packing more scoring punch. It all adds up to a steady on-court maturation for the reflective Carey. We sat down late last week to discuss his development on the floor and interests off it.
THE RAMS TAKE ON ST. LOUIS WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2ND AT 7PM ON YURVIEW, COX CHANNEL 4 IN RI
Chris DiSano: Your comfort in the system and with who you are as a player is growing this year and it’s evident. How do you feel about your development?
Jalen Carey: I feel good about my development. I’ve put in a lot of work on my game – and it’s about me trusting the work that I’ve put in and trusting the coaching staff. Basically, trust and confidence. To be able to trust my teammates… and for them to be able to trust me and give me the ball in certain positions where I’m able to score or make a play for others. That’s been going well for me so far and one of my reasons for success on the court.
CD: Your minutes are climbing. What are you hearing from the coaching staff in terms of encouragement and what they see in your game?
JC: One of the things that Coach Cox tells me every day is to keep having a positive voice. That’s been helping me, keeping that positive mentality, encouraging my teammates to stay positive… during bad plays, after a bad call, or when another team goes on a run… having that voice and being a leader to keep our guys up during tough times. That’s one thing that’s helped me a lot and that the coaching staff encourages me to keep doing.
“Get that outta my house!”
-Jalen Carey… probably pic.twitter.com/bT0NpYgqX1
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) January 30, 2021
CD: It’s never easy to endure a losing streak like the one you all have just gone through but you got off the mat beating a good Davidson team. What did you learn about each other during that time?
JC: When you stay confident and trust each other you can get through it. I feel like every practice that we had, we still came in and handled business in those practices. We came up short a few games. Had leads going into the half, had a few mistakes that cost us those games… Going into the Davidson game, we wanted to lock in, focus on the mistakes we made, clean that up, and I feel like that’s what we did to come out with a ‘W.’
CD: You spoke a moment ago about making plays for others and that maturation. Your assist rate is considerably higher and your turnover rate is lower as you’ve gotten into conference play. Your playmaking ability is improving. What’s your perspective on it?
JC: I’d definitely say the game is slowing down for me. Being in college for three years, it’s slowing down for me. Another thing is just being confident. Making the right pass to the right teammate, knowing where guys are going to be during certain possessions. I go back on those themes of confidence and trust. The coaches also told me that earlier I wasn’t playing as much because of turnovers, so that’s been a focus for me… as a guy who wants to be able to play and loves the game, lowering my turnovers is a focus and being able to set guys up. Making the simple play. Lots of times I’d try to drive between two defenders or fit a pass that might not be there. If I’m driving and seeing the defense collapse, I’m trying to make the extra pass or take one less dribble…. Not trying to do too much.
CD: On defense, where are you dedicating the most time to improving?
JC: My on-ball defense. Guarding Shep [Jeremy Sheppard], Ish Leggett, Ish El-Amin in practice is helpful and going up against good players in the non-conference and conference schedule as well. I’ve shown I can guard the ball and that’s one thing I want to keep working on and keep showing.
CD: Let’s go off the floor for a minute. What do you enjoy doing off the court?
JC: I love music. I have a friend who’s a big-time rapper, Sheck Wes. My favorite artist is Gunna. Another thing I really love is fashion. I love to make clothes and wear a lot of different clothes. I’m working to come out with a clothing brand soon, no specific date yet, but working on trying to show some of the things I love through that brand.
CD: That’s excellent. Best of luck and no doubt your clothing brand will be a resounding success when it launches so long as I don’t get anywhere near wearing it.
JC: [not surprisingly laughs out loud}.
CD: Okay, here’s another one. Who’s your first call after a game to talk about how you played?
JC: Honestly, depends on the game. I’ll call my Mom sometimes, sometimes me and my grandmother might talk. It’s crazy to hear their feedback on what they see and how they feel about our games, seeing their perspectives. I speak with my Dad sometimes. And mainly I speak with friends. I feel like they keep it real with me in terms of how I played and certain things I did or could’ve done.
— Rhody MBB (@RhodyMBB) August 19, 2020
CD: This year, back in front of fans… Are you a guy that feeds big-time off the crowd or is it not as big a springboard for you?
JC: For me, I feed a lot off away games and away team’s crowds. Like when we played Dayton, seeing the crowd that was lined up a couple hours before the game that gets me hyped up. With home games, when our student section is live and active, I feel like that I feed off that. I like both sides, both when people are not on your side and want to see you fail gets me hyped to compete.
CD: What do you guys need to do to play better down the stretch as you head towards Washington, D.C., and the Atlantic 10 Tournament?
JC: We need to stick with the game plan. One thing we need to improve on is free throws and turnovers. Coming out with that killer mentality each game, not underestimating any team because anybody can beat you on any day… continue to have that mentality. When everyone is in the Tournament, everyone starts 0-0. Blank slate and everyone gets to show what they have through the Tournament. It’s a great atmosphere there and looking forward to focusing, keeping a level head, and staying positive and winning each game that we can.
CD: Is there anybody you want to give a final shout out to or any message you want to get out there.
JC: I want to give a shout out to my Mom and my Dad, the blessings that they gave me. I’m a big believer in God. I pray often. I want to give a shout out to everybody who’s stayed with me through the course, shout out to my family… I want to stay positive and keep going. Live every day like it’s a great day and always try to stay positive.
Chris DiSano, is an Atlantic 10 analyst and writer. He has served as the host of A-10 Live! at Men’s Basketball Media Day and founded the former College Chalktalk. DiSano, who was named NBC Sports top Atlantic 10 basketball follow on Twitter for five straight years, can be found on Twitter at @CDiSano44