Jarrett Jack ran the ball up the court during a mid-July pickup game at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas. His voice traveled through the gym as he began calling out to his teammates before he reached half court. The basketball and his mouth moved simultaneously.
“Good shot!” he yelled on offense.
“I got ball!” he bellowed on defense.
“Talk to me! Talk to me! Talk to me!” he repeated throughout the game, constantly urging his teammates to increase their communication.
The fact it was an offseason workout was irrelevant to Jack. Being a vocal leader is a year-round role the Brooklyn Nets point guard has embraced.
Jack had never found it difficult to speak up on the court. His parents were always vocal, whether it came to school or sports. They reiterated the importance of expressing himself, pointing out people won’t know how he is feeling unless he tells them.
“A closed mouth doesn’t get fed,” said Jack. “That’s the motto we took. We do it respectfully, but also you have to let your voice be heard when you feel it’s necessary.”
Jack entered Georgia Tech ready to take the reigns. As a freshman, though, he was tasked with directing players years older than him. He had to learn how to fine tune his approach to get everyone on board.
“I’ve always been vocal,” Jack told Basketball Insiders. “I think learning how to do it, learning how to pick and choose my spots, knowing how to talk to people and get them going, I mostly think I learned that in college.”
Then-head coach Paul Hewitt worked with Jack on his delivery. There was a balance between being emotional and effective, one which Jack considers to be a vital tool for success at his position.
“I used to talk but let’s just say, they helped me tweak it a little bit,” he said. “Being young, I think I was real fiery about everything. I wanted us, as well as myself, to play as close to a perfect game as possible. If it wasn’t, I would get upset at it, so to speak. Some people all the time don’t respond to you yelling; some people do respond well to it. I learned that there are different methods that you can use to get people to respond.”
Jack began expanding his forms of communication. He held private discussions, discretely whispered advice out of the earshot of others, and simply offered positive reinforcement. The end goal is getting the entire team on the same page. Encouragement and honest, he said, can go a long way.
Unifying the players on the court was a priority for Jack when he entered the NBA in 2005. He felt it was important to lead by example and, just as he did in college, worked hard in the gym to back up his words with his actions.
Yet Jack faced new hurdles in the pros. Unlike in college, players didn’t spend as much time together in a campus setting. He wanted the sense of “team” to extend beyond games and practices.
“I had some challenges because in the league it’s quite different,” said Jack, who turns 31 on October 28. “I tell people all the time, ‘In college you have teammates, up here you have coworkers.’ It’s different and nuances of the word are very different. That’s just one of the things we try to do, bring that type of camaraderie to where it’s not forced and we enjoy being in the same uniform with each other. It’s not once we punch out, leave the clock, it’s like I’ll see those guys at work tomorrow.”
Over his career, which has spanned seven teams and ten seasons, he has encountered a wide variety of personalities on and off the court. Some have bought into his vocal approach immediately, others are not on board right away. In those instances, Jack has found it most beneficial to talk things out and find a common ground. He also pushes his teammates to get up for the entire 48 minutes, which has hasn’t always been easy in the past.
“There’s times in certain games where there might be a little bit of a malaise over it,” he said. “A lot of people have this thing they call the ‘NBA cool.’ Guys got the ‘NBA cool’ run, or whatever the case may be. I think playing hard, that kind of gets that out the way. Just trying to lift the tempo, the momentum, keeping the energy level high is the thing I try to bring to the table more than anything.”
The approach is working in Brooklyn. Jack has made a fast impression on the Nets only months after being traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers in July. HIs poise and veteran experience adds depth to their backcourt and locker room.
“He’s always talking,” Andrei Kirilenko said with a laugh. “For a point guard, you have to be vocal. I think Jarrett is a great example of an aggressive point guard who likes to run his offense. I think a combination of him and Deron (Williams) effectively run our offense.”
Jack keeps the energy level and expectations high. He pours so much into every day of work that he says the one player who “matches him beat for beat” in practice is the extremely intense Kevin Garnett. This is not lost on his teammates, especially those working their way up in the NBA.
“Seeing him do that is like showing the way to be a good point guard in this league,” 21-year-old Marquis Teague said prior to be traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. “He’s communicating, telling guys where to be. It starts with him in practice. It’s good to see it carry over and how to be a pro.”
Those who played with Jack in the past have taken what they learned from him to their new squads. Boston Celtic Tyler Zeller was teammates with Jack last season, his second year in the league. The big man was guided by the backcourt veteran.
“He continued to make sure we were accountable,” said Zeller. “It helps a lot, drastically with the learning curve because it makes people learn quicker. … He did a great job to be a team leader and try to push our team.”
The NBA regular season kicks off this week. Jack has been prepared for months. He is ready to push the Nets, whether it is on the court or advising from the bench. This vocal leader just wants to make his team better, and he’s not afraid to let that be heard.
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