Jayden Merritt is one of the best players from the Poplar Springs, FL area in the Class of 2019.
The 6-foot-5, 170-pound Merritt, who attends Poplar Springs High School, is a dynamic player that works as a center.
No matter the opponent, every game Merritt is determined to give it his all.
Merritt is going all out.
The motor is always at full throttle whenever Merritt steps between the lines.
“On offense I focus on trying to make shots for my teammates while also looking for shot opportunities myself,” Merritt said. “On defense we mostly played a 2-3 and I was the center of the defense so I had to communicate with my teammates to let them know where to be, and I stopped all drives in the paint.”
Merritt has great passion and energy whenever he’s on the hardwood. Merritt tells why he enjoys the game of basketball so much.
“I love being able to play with my friends that I’ve played with since third grade,” Merritt said.
Merritt has learned many valuable lessons from playing basketball that he applies to his everyday life.
The main one is applying perspective to all situations.
“Playing has taught me that everything doesn’t come easy and that there are going to be hard times,” Merritt said.
Merritt recalls his favorite basketball memory.
“It would have to be my first dunk last season, it was kind of unexpected because I didn’t really dunk it that much at practice and wasn’t very good at it,” Merritt said. “But I got a steal and had a fast break where I dunked it over another guy.”
Jared Owen has coached Merritt for four years at Poplar Springs.
Owen explains the best parts of Merritt’s game.
“Thing that stands out about Jayden is he understand how to use his height and length to keep the ball above trouble,” Owen said. “He does a great job of keeping it high when finishing around the rim and also keeps the ball high when breaking a press or facing pressure defense so that he is ready to throw a skip pass when the moment is right.”
Merritt takes his role as one of the leaders on the team very seriously. Merritt makes sure he’s a daily positive influence on his peers.
“I always have something positive to say to them at practice and in games,” Merritt said. “I encourage them to not give up in tough games.”
Owen adds that Merritt is one of those consummate teammates that every squad needs to be successful.
“Jayden is very quiet and easy going. When he makes a mistake or a teammate does, Jayden’s laid-back nature allows him to move on quickly to the next play. He doesn’t get bogged down on just one play,” Owen said. “To go along with this, he shows up each day and does his job. Guys like Jayden are enjoyable to coach because they quickly forget the past and are always working to get better and move on.”
Merritt is appreciative of having amazing male role models that are supportive.
“It’s all about attitude. You might not like something that you’re doing but that’s just part of it and you can’t give up. It’s not an option,” Merritt said. “My coaches tell me never give up because you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to.”
Owen is an advocate of Merritt’s capabilities.
“Jayden has been our rim protector. A lot of high schools at our level aren’t blessed with overwhelming height so when you have it you try and use it,” Owen said. “Jayden knew how to use his length and jumping ability to alter shots. When he blocked shots it usually wasn’t just a deflection, but rather a rejection. Our team and crowd fed off of his defense which usually led to fast break buckets. His season high was seven blocks in a game.”
In addition to making clutch plays, Merritt also has a high level of basketball IQ as well.
Merritt has excellent basketball awareness that puts him in position to thrive.
“Some guys have this and Jayden is one of them and that is the ability to read shots coming off of the rim,” Owen said. “Jayden it seems is always at the spot where the ball is coming off of the rim. This allowed him to average almost 10 rebounds a game for us this past year.”
Merritt is on the grind to perfect and hone his craft in any way possible.
“Jayden is very task oriented. Give him something to do and he is going to do it to the best of his ability,” Owen said. “This year he was basically our lone big guy on varsity so when we’d split up post/perimeter at practice he’d be with more JV players. Jayden didn’t mind at all. He would work hard and the guys around him followed his lead.”
Owen explains why he compares Merritt to this player.
“Jayden reminds me of Clint Capela for the Rockets. Clint isn’t the leading scorer for them, but you had better account for him on offense and defense. Jayden, much like Capela will score 10-15 points a game off of put backs and drop offs at the rim,” Owen said. “They both know where to be when the ball is going toward the rim whether by shot or drive. They both also affect what the other team is doing offensively. One thing Jayden has on Clint is that he has hit a 3-pointer in a game.”
Merritt patterns his mentality after this legend.
“I look up to DeMarcus Cousins because of how he scores inside,” Merritt said.
Merritt is constantly striving for greatness in everything that he does.
“I want to keep a positive attitude and finish what I started,” Merritt said.
Merritt lists science as his favorite subject in school.
“There’s always something new to learn every day in science,” Merritt said.
Owen outlines the areas of improvement that will take Merritt to the next level.
“Jayden has a unique ability to finish at the rim in different ways. He has really long arms and can use not only his left hand, but his right as well. The area where he has made the most improvement over the last year is with the 10-15 foot jump shot. He has worked at bettering this part of his game and it showed this past year,” Owen said. “Many times this year Jayden knocked that shot down for us. This needs to continue to be a weapon for him so that the rim attack from that position opens up more and more as opponents have to respect his jump shot.”
Owen believes the sky is the limit as long as Merritt continues to stay hungry.
“Jayden really began coming into his own over the last year and a half. He averaged double figures for us the last half of this past season and there were games we wouldn’t have won if he hadn’t shown up,” Owen said. “Jayden would be a great asset at a small college where he could play inside to start and then continue to improve his guard skills and develop more of his game. He is very athletic and can dunk with ease which gives him a leg up on many as athleticism is a must at the college level.”
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