Jay Scrubb’s journey to the NBA wasn’t linear. There was no NCAA basketball. No McDonald’s All-American team selections. No high school rankings to put him on the national radar. All Scrubb had was a dream and an insatiable work ethic.
The list of players who have traveled the JUCO to NBA route is short. To further complicate things, most players on that list used their time at the JUCO level to earn a roster spot with a Division I school. Not Scrubb. Instead, the free-scoring guard continued to trust in his work ethic and the product he was putting on the court, hoping that an NBA team would take notice.
In 2020, Scrubb’s hard work paid off. After declaring for the NBA Draft, the LA Clippers selected the JUCO player of the year with the 55th pick.
“It was a blessing hearing my name called,” Scrubb told me during a recent interview. “I wasn’t able to walk across the stage due to COVID, but hearing my name called made it better, man. And, of course, silencing the doubters. Everybody who said I wouldn’t make it up until that point. It goes farther back [to my time] in middle school and high school and things like that, just to be able to silence all the critics and silence all the doubters, man, that was the most exciting thing I could do. Just for me and my family, with everything that we have been through, it was a surreal moment, man.”
Entering his fourth year in the NBA as a free agent, Scrubb participated in Summer League as he looked to find a new home around the league. After multiple impressive performances for the Celtics, Brad Stevens extended Scrubb a two-way contract.
Now, he will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of Sam Hauser by not just playing for the big club, but potentially cracking Boston’s rotation next season.
“It’s literally that mentality just coming in and the same way Sam did. Being what the team needs coming in and being that knockdown shooter, being that guy that could come in and guard and come in and be that glue piece. It’s sort of that same mindset just coming in and being that added piece that added boost for the team. That’s the main thing.”
Scrubb will face a tough challenge in breaking into Boston’s backcourt rotation. Even after Marcus Smart’s departure, the Celtics have Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon, Payton Pritchard, and Jaylen Brown consuming the majority of the minutes. Under head coach Joe Mazzulla, though, scoring is placed at a premium, and that’s where Scrubb excels.
During Summer League, Scrubb showed an ability to score in a multitude of ways. We saw flashes out of the pick-and-roll as a ball-handler.
There were hustle points created through high-energy plays.
And some self-creation off the dribble with flashes of high-level body control around the rim.
It’s that scoring versatility that could earn Scrubb an opportunity to impress and for Scrubb, that’s all he needs.
“They already have guys like [Jayson] Tatum, [Malcolm] Brogdon, [Jaylen] Brown - you know, ball-dominant guys. So just coming in and being that guy, knocking down open shots whenever they need me to. If they do need me to put the ball on the floor, make sure it’s efficient. Two, three, dribbles, get to the rim. Not doing nothing crazy out there and just letting the game come to me, man. And that’s what’s so special about this team: I have an opportunity to where I can just come in and be that glue guy, and I’m excited for that, man. I’m excited.”
There will be times throughout the upcoming season when one of Boston’s backcourt rotation needs to miss a game or two - either due to load management or a slight injury. It will be in those moments where Scrubb gets his opportunity to impress — along with the time he spends training with the team, of course.
Fortunately, Scrubb has wasted no time in getting to work with his new teammates, especially some of the team’s younger members. During the interview, Scrubb noted how he’s been working out with JD Davison, Dalano Banton, and Jordan Walsh, along with veterans Al Horford and Malcolm Brogdon.
“I have had a conversation with him [Joe Mazzulla.] He was in Atlanta coming to watch Malcolm and Al work out, and I had just happened to bump into him, just working where Malcolm and Al were...I can’t wait to get to Boston, man, and him to see [what shape] some of the younger guys are in right now. We’re just working out — Me, JD, Dalano, and Jordan. So I can’t wait for him to be able to come down and see what we’ve been doing these past couple of weeks, man, and I can’t wait to be able to get around [the team.]
We also touched on a potential backcourt pairing of Scrubb and Davison in the G-League, and how that could become a fierce weapon for the Maine Celtics in the upcoming season. Jordan Walsh’s leadership qualities were also discussed, along with a rapid-fire question round to get to know Scrubb’s personality a little better.
I was not expecting the “Polar Express” answer.
You can watch the full interview in the embed above, where you can hear how excited Scrubb is for the upcoming season and his hopes of making Boston his NBA home.
“I’m looking to be a household name here, man, and I want to be here for as long as Celtics fans want me here. I’m going to put in the work. I’m putting it out there, man. Celtics champions, man. This year, we coming home with the championship.”
Scrubb is already talking like a member of the Celtics. The next step is to continue proving the doubters wrong by cracking the rotation. But for Scrubb, that should be light work. After all, he’s been proving doubters wrong his whole life.