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Jakeenan: Not So Local Anymore

Jakeenan Gant comes from the small town of Springfield, GA. The city is 45 minutes from Savannah; 4 HOURS from Atlanta. Basketball is still relevant, however and there are numerous courts in or around the town. Gant’s destinations thus far? Effingham County High School Rebels. Missouri Tigers. Clemson Tigers? Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns: Sun Belt champions. A crazy ride for a guy barely even 21 years of age.

Gant’s play with the local Rebels was incredible alongside long time friend Jay Wright. The dynamic duo led the high school to numerous wins and really put Effingham back on the local basketball map. The basketball definitely did not stop bouncing when the two graduated. At 6’8″207, Jakeenan Gant attended Missouri while Wright continued to Louisiana Lafayette as a defensive nightmare.

I remember tuning into a game on an ESPN network where Gant’s Tigers had to have been down by 20 or more. I shared mutual friends with Jakeenan as I had attended the middle school in Effingham before being homeschooled due to my getting in trouble. This was the first time though that I had seen the local star play. What I saw on TV that day made me a believer. Gant gave it his all as a bench warmer freshman I garbage time. He snatched offensive boards, swatted a shot, and ran back after turnovers. I have NEVER in 12 years of watching basketball seen a freshman big man do that. Kee made a lasting impression.

Due to his mother being diagnosed with an illness, Jakeenan Gant decided to leave Missouri. I was working at a convenience store in Springfield’s neighboring city of Guyton. I enjoyed the graveyard shift meeting cool guys like Frank Sulkowski of WJCL (local ABC station), my future podcast co-host Chris Jeffers, and Jakeenan Gant himself. The tall star came in with Jay Wright that summer in which Jakeenan left. I knew who Gant was and told him my admiration of his game, especially the hustle.

Later on, I started talking with locals close to Jakeenan. I learned of his decision to transfer. Some told me of his decision to choose Clemson and the aspiring reporter in me told it to Frank Sulkowski. This was true until it wasn’t. Something happened during the process and Gant ended up at Jay Wright’s school Louisiana Lafayette. Due to the NCAA’s bogus transfer rule, Gant had to sit out while Jay Wright finished his last year. Wright has since signed with an Orlando Magic G-League affiliate after going undrafted.

For the holidays in 2016-17, Gant made a trip home. I was at the convenience store on my day off and was approached by one of Jakeenan’s friends. The friend asked me to play ball at the Guyton court. I agreed and drove there. After I got out of my car, the friend got out of his and then… Jakeenan Gant came out. I was going to play Kee and I couldn’t believe it.

We played a game of the classical 21. I scored 2 in increments of 1. The friend added 10 or so, and you guessed it: Jakeenan won. His jumper was spot on for a guy his size and he was just smooth. I will also take to my grave I blocked him once and yes… he blocked me about five times. I do want a rematch.

Jakeenan played basketball at Louisiana Lafayette. At the same time, Michael Porter Jr, a high school superstar, attended Mizzou. Porter Jr suffered an injury at the beginning of the season and has only recently begun working out. Alongside Gant at Lafayette is South Carolina transfer Marcus Stroman and former USC Trojan Malik Marquetti. The results as the season winds down? Sun Belt champions going 16-2 in the conference. Gant is averaging a couple of blocks per game (adding 7 the night this is written in a loss), hitting a decent percentage from 3, and nearly made SportsCenter Top Ten with a huge dunk this season.

I believe this guy is a star in the making.

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