Former Centennial High School student Jaden DeGrasse is not the ordinary high school athlete. He longs for more than just accolades and awards.
DeGrasse, who was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., has had a basketball in his hand since he was 3 years old.
“It was hilarious watching him try to dribble around the driveway, but I knew he would be special,” said DeGrasse’s mom, Samantha.
DeGrasse is averaging 22.3 points and 8.2 assists per game with Western Kentucky Elite, his AAU team. He will join Franklin Christian Academy in the fall and the rising star will get his first taste of European competition this summer, when he represents Team USA at the United World Games. The international tournament will run from June 17 to June 26. DeGrasse will play basketball in Austria, Germany and Italy, while also acting as an ambassador for the U.S.
“On the court, I will get to compete on a bigger stage and against a different level of competition. And off the court, I will get to see the world,” said the 6-foot-1 DeGrasse.
Wayne Smith, the athletic director at Franklin Christian Academy, said the rising junior is very athletic and has a “hidden potential.”
“He loves the game, loves to compete and wants to do what is best for the team,” he said. “He’s a true team player.”
In his quest to get better, DeGrasse makes a weekly 3½-hour round trip to Russellville, Kentucky, to practice with his AAU team. And just as his game has evolved, so have his goals.
“I started out just wanting to get better every day,” DeGrasse said. “Now my goal is to play in college and then professionally overseas.”
While growing up, DeGrasse has watched the superstar era of the NBA unfold, and it has fueled DeGrasse’s interest in the game even more. He said he tries to model his game after his two favorite players: De’Aaron Fox and Kawhi Leonard.
The 16-year-old’s favorite part of the game is the competitiveness.
“My favorite part about basketball is when two teams are really going at it,” DeGrasse said. “It forces my teammates and I to push each other, and when we come out on top, it’s electrifying. There’s no feeling like it in the world.”
He said the most rewarding part of playing is making jaw-dropping passes to set up his teammates for open buckets.
“It just feels good when you watch other people do good and you’re helping out. It makes the whole team look great,” said DeGrasse, who also said that he makes sure to pray and have God lead him on and off the court.
DeGrasse becomes laser-focused in a game. He said his mind races as he seeks out passing lanes and attempts moves to leave defenders in the dust.
“Jaden has great court vision and is very athletic, so he can be a threat in egging his shot, driving to the basket or getting his teammates involved with his passing,” Smith said of the young player.
In the classroom, DeGrasse has also pushed himself to keep straight A’s and he took a serious interest in English and mythology.
“At the end of the day, the main goal is a college degree,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good you are at playing ball. If you can’t make the grades, you won’t go anywhere.”
When not on the court, DeGrasse spends a majority of his time with his family, taking in his sister’s gymnastic events or helping his father run the youth group at Empowerment Church.
“Family, basketball and school, it could always be taken away from you,” DeGrasse said. “That’s why you have to appreciate what you have.”
Editor's Note: This story was edited to indicate Jaden DeGrasse's transfer to Franklin Christian Academy this coming school year.