Memphis Grizzlies

Grizzlies' Ja Morant on connection with Raptors' Fred VanVleet: 'Not a lot of recognition but look at us now'

Grizzlies guard Ja Morant is on a tear to open the 2021-22 NBA season.

It's still early, but with averages of 25.3 points and 7.1 assists per game, the 22-year-old looks to be in line for the first All-Star selection of his young career. After scoring 23 points in a loss to the Raptors, Morant spoke on how he resonates with the message of guard Fred VanVleet, whose mantra is to "bet on yourself."

"Everything I've been through to get to this point, it's pretty much Ja," he said to TSN's Kayla Gray. "His message to 'bet on yourself' - I'm always taking myself over everybody, no matter what it is."

Morant, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, might not be able to connect with the undrafted element of VanVleet's journey, but neither Morant nor VanVleet were highly-touted recruits coming out of high school, leading them to mid-major colleges in Murray State and Wichita State, respectively.

When talking about VanVleet's influence, Morant alluded to the fact that they took paths that are far from that of the traditional NBA star,

"A guy like him, similar background, had to make it out," Morant continued. "Not a lot of recognition but look at us now - both top players in this league, he's known as big-time for us. I know it gives a lot of people who are going through what we've been through a lot of hope."

VanVleet later took to Twitter to acknowledge Morant, calling the burgeoning superstar "special."

Since going undrafted in 2016, VanVleet has gone from the last man to make the Raptors' roster to a well-respected player on the verge of an All-Star selection. Morant going No. 2 in his draft doesn't quite align with VanVleet's NBA journey, but in many ways, VanVleet's success as a mid-major point guard through his first three seasons paved the way for the team to take a chance on a player like Morant.

The two are five years apart and have taken similar, yet very different paths, but both are among the top point guards in the NBA and are more than deserving of All-Star consideration.

Morant and VanVleet will meet one final time when the Grizzlies visit the Raptors on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

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