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Experience a major key for Suns draft pick Ty Jerome

UMBC's Jairus Lyles (10) loses the ball as Virginia's Ty Jerome (11) defends during the first half of a first-round game in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, March 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

With the signing of Ricky Rubio, the trade for Dario Saric and the selection of Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome in June’s NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns have shown they have a type this summer.

They’re coveting experienced players and are even applying that philosophy to rookies.

Neither Jerome or Johnson were college one-and-dones. Johnson played five years of college basketball, starting out at Pittsburgh before transferring to North Carolina. Jerome played three years at Virginia and started every game he played in during his sophomore and junior seasons.

He believes that gives him an edge.

“I wasn’t ready to take the jump to the NBA after one year of college,” he said Wednesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf. “I think just developing my body, developing my mind more and developing my game for the three years I did in college was really beneficial for me.”

Those three years included three NCAA tournament appearances. For two of those appearances, Jerome’s Cavaliers were the No.1 seed. And this past season, they backed that up by winning the national championship.

“Just the experiences I went through in college and the big games I was able to play in, making the Final Four, playing in front of 70,000 people … you’ll never be able to play in front of 70,000 people in the NBA,” he explained. “[That] all builds character and gets you ready for the big moments.”

But his experiences weren’t all joyful. The season before, Virginia was knocked out in the first round of the tournament by No. 16 seed UMBC, which became the first No.16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed in history. The loss is considered to be one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

“I’ve thought about it every day since,” Jerome said of the loss.

He explained that his self-motivation helped him push through the emotion of it.

“You have no choice but to use it as motivation, use it as fuel,” he said. “It’s almost corny now, but that loss was definitely one of the best things to ever happen to me.”

That motivation and drive is something that translates onto the court, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where Jerome could help out a Suns team that has been one of the worst in the NBA on that side of the court.

“I just want to try and come in and stay continuous on defense and just give it my all,” he said.

It’s part of a culture shift Jerome has noticed.

“I think they’re really trying to change the culture; they’re doing a great job with that,” he said. “You know, the pieces they brought in in free agency, Ricky Rubio and Dario [Saric], drafting Cam Johnson. They’re trying to really change the culture and get guys that buy in.”

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