In its first year, Fort Erie International Academy (CAN) has established itself as one of the elite prep programs outside of the U.S.. The Falcons are led by the uber-talented Leonard Miller and have a strong interior presence in big man Isaac Jack. Last November, FEIA added 2022 Jaden Clayton, an elite playmaker and floor general in a lead guard role. Clayton comes to FEIA to finish off his senior year of high school after previously suiting up for Dream City Christian (AZ) alongside Kentucky freshman and Canadian counterpart Shaedon Sharpe. The 6’1” point guard played for Canada at the 2019 FIBA U16 Americas Championship, averaging 4.3 points, 3.5 assists, and 2.7 rebounds in just under 17 minutes per game. Most recently, Clayton set a new Grind Session record with 17 assists at The Rising Sun Showcase against PHHoenix Heat (AZ).
As part of the Pro Insight Q&A series, Clayton talked about modeling his game after Chris Paul and Steve Nash, his connection with former high school and AAU teammate Shaedon Sharpe, his recruitment update, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2022 prospect Jaden Clayton, from Whitby, Ontario, Canada:
Pro Insight: How did you get to where you are today? Talk a bit about your background and family.
Jaden Clayton: I'm from Toronto, Canada. Well, realistically Whitby, just a little bit outside of Toronto. My mom is Jamaican and my dad is Nova Scotian. I have that Caribbean background in me and I have two sisters and one brother. That’s about it.
PI: How did you get into basketball?
JC: Both of my parents were like big big athletes — my mom was a track runner and she played volleyball, as well. And then my dad, he was like a big big basketball guy here. And also my sister, she also played basketball for her whole life. So it basically runs in the family, just being an athlete.
PI: Did you play any other sports growing up?
JC: I played flag football a little bit in elementary [school]. Well elementary, I basically played everything, that’s basically what a kid does. They play every sport they can, but I think I tried football but obviously the roughness of that was not sitting well with my mom so I had to drop that and then the basketball kind of just took over from there.
PI: Was hockey pretty big where you grew up?
JC: I mean, yes, I went to school with a lot of hockey people, even when like my first year of high school a lot of hockey people in Canada but other than that…nah, I was not really a big stereotypical hockey guy, Canadian culture and stuff like that.
PI: For those that aren’t familiar with your game, what are your greatest strengths and play style?
JC: I think the biggest thing for me is being unselfish, wanting to get my teammates involved. I think my vision on the court, my IQ is the biggest thing that sets me apart from a lot of different people. The biggest thing for me though, I think, is to be able to teach. Like when I'm on the court and like we get in huddles and different stuff like that is being able to teach the guys like “yo you should be here, you should be here.” You know, being able to really set those guys up for perfection.
PI: Who do you model your game after and try to study on film?
JC: Definitely Chris Paul. Chris Paul and Steve Nash I think are the two biggest ones. Just watching their pace off ball screens and the way they see the floor and even how they get to their spots every time. You see Chris Paul do that in-and-out to the mid-range fade. Like those two they just always get to their spots, no matter what, nobody stops them — so I think just watching their pace and their feel for the game is like the biggest thing.
PI: What do you feel you still need to improve on the most? What have you been working on?
JC: I think, like being more aggressive, trying to put up more shots, because a lot of times as you get older and stuff, more teams are going to start to scout you and I think everyone is starting to get the realization that I can just pass — I'm a really good passer. So now if I add that part to my game where I'm aggressive and being able to go to the rim and score and do all those types of things, then I think it’s going to keep the defense honest whether to either “okay do we step up on Jaden now, and make him make the pass or do we step off and let him shoot now?” So to be able to have that balance I think is really big for me right now in my development.
PI: What are your current measurements?
JC: Right now, I'm 6’1”, 180 [pounds], and I think my wingspan is like 6’3”, 6’4”.
PI: How has your experience at Fort Erie been so far?
JC: I think the transition was pretty smooth. I think Coach Charles [Hantoumakos] really made it easy for me to step into the role that he wanted me to play, really breaking things down with offense and defense and showing me what they've been doing throughout the year. And then for classroom-wise, I think the teachers are amazing. They always sit down with me and say “okay, well this is what you missed, this and that.” And I think that they're really transparent and they'll tell you the real. They’ll tell you “okay, this is what you need to get done before you leave for this trip [or] that trip.” So I think the staff at the school is amazing and the coaches have made it easy and then especially my teammates, they just made life really easy, made me really feel like I'm a part of the team as soon as I got there.
PI: Talk about your experience with the Canadian National Team.
JC: I think it's definitely different from what people say. It's a lot of practice, a lot of…even when you get down there, like we went down to Brazil and like as soon as you get there, it’s straight business. Like it's just straight like, “okay, this is what we're doing. We're gonna lock in. We're going to have practice this time [and] this time.” It's like a real routine that you have to follow and I think what a lot of people don't see is that it's really like a serious thing and you're representing your country — so it's like a whole different experience than what you've seen before and everyone's really played like not really internationally, they just played within their country or the USA, but this is like people from all across the world, so it's a total different game.
PI: Quite different than showing up to an AAU game and just lacing them up and playing.
JC: Yeah, exactly. You have a whole regimen you have to go through and really have to get hunkered down with all your teammates and all your coaches and just make sure you follow the game plan.
PI: You played on a talented UPLAY team last summer — can you talk a bit about how special that group was?
JC: Ohh yeah, that was like one of my favorite summers I could ever ask for with all those guys. We've had that UPLAY team for years, since like eighth grade, so all those guys are special like DJ [Jackson], Shaedon [Sharpe], Josiah [Davis], all those guys are like just basically my brothers from eighth grade, so finally to play my last year of AAU with them was like something special and obviously we made the run that we did. We definitely could have made it further down the line if we had more time, but I feel like obviously COVID had a lot of things to do with that…but overall it was just an amazing experience to finish it especially with those guys who were my brothers from eighth grade.
PI: You played with Shaedon both at UPLAY and Dream City Christian — talk about your connection on and off the court.
JC: I think a lot of it has to do with...well we both played Team Canada together and we were close from there and then both of us are kind of like shy guys, you could say, in a sense, but I think that that's what made us bond together as soon as we got to Dream City, we just clicked. We were roommates. From there, and then obviously you see his freakish ability to get above the rim and then my connection to be able to throw those lobs. I think a lot of it comes with off the court stuff. We’re just having that connection playing video games together and then translating that all the way to UPLAY, I think it was just like, easy to just go one-two punch and then just go from there.
PI: What are your biggest interests outside of basketball?
JC: Yeah, definitely video games. Any of my roommates in the past can tell you, Shaedon…even I'm roommates with Leonard now. All we do is just play video games like any video game you can basically think of is what I'm playing.
PI: Who’s your go-to team for 2K?
JC: I'm a hometown guy, so sometimes I use the Raptors. I don’t want to be a bandwagoner and hop on like the Lakers and Golden State and stuff. Also, I like Phoenix because of Chris Paul, but I sometimes have to use the Raptors.
PI: Who are your favorite music artists?
JC: This is a hard one. I would say Rod Wave is definitely my number one. Then I would say Lil Uzi [Vert]. Rod Wave, a lot of people don't like him because of his in-his-feels stuff but it just, it just puts you in that good feeling, that good mood. Lil Uzi, he has that vibe too. Same thing with Lil Baby, Gunna, and I kind of like a lot of oldies like Biggie, Tupac, just the bigger name older guys.
PI: You have one hashtag to describe yourself. What is it?
JC: I think I would say unselfish…#unselfish because everyone around me, I just want to see them shine. I think it's like it when you see people smile and do great for themselves, I think that's just the biggest thing. Seeing other people succeed, it's just the unselfishness about me, I love it.
PI: If you were stuck forever on a deserted island and had all the food, water, and shelter you needed — what three personal items would you bring?
JC: Ohh people. Ohh my family… my mom, my dad, and probably my brother. It’s going to be a hard question to say ‘cause I know I have two sisters and a brother, but it would definitely be both of my parents and one of those people. One person I can’t pick because I know they'll get mad.
PI: Let’s say family is one item.
JC: I would say probably my family, my phone, probably a basketball. Those are huge things in my life that I do constantly - It’s just basketball, video games, rest, and spending time with family.
PI: If you weren’t pursuing a career as a professional hooper, what do you think you would choose to do?
JC: Definitely would want to be involved in some type of athletic thing, so I think like being able to commentate, like journalism stuff. I want to be able to commentate, or almost analytics, just being able to stay within sports. Like I know a little bit about football and soccer and stuff like that, so being able to stay within sports and athletic performance. I think it would be a really big thing for me.
PI: If you woke up tomorrow to see a fortune in your bank account, what would be your first purchase?
JC: To go along with the trend of unselfishness, I’d probably give back. Probably maybe a charity or something, but for myself I have to get myself a car, some nice luxurious car, like real nice.
PI: What is your recruitment update?
JC: Right now, I'm talking to UTSA, Northeastern, Mount St. Mary's — I think those three are really big on me. Drexel, as well. Oklahoma State was reaching out, as well. I like the relationship I have with UTSA right now. They've been there from the very jump, and I also like Mount St. Mary's and also Northeastern. They've been there from the jump, too.
PI: What will ultimately be your deciding factors when making your choice?
JC: I think just being able to relate with the coaching staff and have a bond with them. I don't want to have to go to a school where I don't feel comfortable with asking them questions and not being able to have real life conversations…even things outside of basketball, like, I can really talk to them about personal problems and stuff like that — so I feel like if I can really connect with the coach on a personal level, and almost have them as like a second father, or something like that, you know? To really have that relationship with them, I think that'd be a really big thing.
PI: What is your timeline looking like for a decision?
JC: Still try to feel it out. I think probably by the next signing period I would want to, you know, so probably by the end of maybe May, somewhere around there. So when the time comes. I just want to focus on the season right now, because I know that stuff will come as time goes on, so I really just want to focus on the season. Let's get the work done at hand.
PI: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
JC: Ohh, this is a hard one. “Never show people your weakness,” because I think a lot of people take that for granted. And when you start to show weakness, it shows that you're not as strong mentally as a person and I think that's like a really big thing — outside of life and on the court, too — to have a strong mental mindset. I think that is really what defines you as a person, because if you have a weak mindset people can take advantage of you. People see, then you start to leak out your weaknesses, but if you have a strong mindset nobody can really take anything from you. They just see you as the strong, you know, mindset person so I think mindset is a really big thing.
PI: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
JC: Having to repeat myself. I would say having to repeat myself. It's very, I don't know why I just don't like it, but obviously that's something I have to work on myself, because I'm able to like, having to repeat myself as a part of my teaching thing that I said earlier, and if I'm able to teach I have to be able to repeat myself because some people learn different than others. So I think that's a really big thing.
PI: How would you define the word ‘success?’
JC: Success I would say, is to be able to accomplish what your goals are, no matter if it's long term or short term. I think you define your own success, so if you have something written down or on your mind or that you've prayed to before, I think those are like the biggest things. Because if you don't accomplish your own goals and your own things that you have set down for yourself, then you're not really following your own success and what you want to accomplish, but if you get those goals and you get your accomplishments, that's your success — because no one else can define your success but yourself.
PI: Name four words that best describe you.
JC: I would say nice, funny, unselfish, and caring. I think I care for a lot of my peers. I always listen to them whenever they have something to say to my teammates, to always sit down and pull me aside after practice and say “yo, what did you see? What did you see there?” I think that’s the caring [part] and then, nice and funny…once you get to know me a lot of people say I'm a goof a little bit in my closer circle, so when you really get to know me you'll see those types of features within me.
PI: At the end of the day, what do you hope to be remembered for?
JC: I would say my own unselfishness, once again. I really want to be known as a caring person, someone that's “okay, when I was teammates with Jaden, he was always giving me advice. He was always pitching these things to me. He was always saying ‘okay listen, to do this, to do that, you have to get better and stuff like that.’” So I think I want to be remembered as a really caring and unselfish person that made my teammates better and made people better. Just better people in general. I think it’d really help if everyone had that mindset, then the world would be a much much better place.