Watch I Am the Prospect: Ty Jerome in full in the video player above. A four-part series, I Am the Prospect follows top basketball prospects in their journey to the 2019 NBA Draft.
The toughest coach Ty Jerome has ever played for?
Nope, not University of Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. Nor Vic Quirolo, his high school basketball coach at Iona Prep (NY).
Ty's answer? Mark Jerome, his father.
"Some of those stories I can't even say on the record but he was the toughest coach I ever had to play for and I can't imagine a coach being much tougher than him," Jerome told NBC Sports Washington for I Am the Prospect.
Jerome, who helped lead UVA to its first NCAA title this past season, is now trying to take his game to the NBA. And according to the 6-5 guard, it's those hard days of work with his father which makes Ty believe he can make it at the next level.
"Where I come from has always driven me. I’ve never been given anything, I’ve had to earn everything," said Jerome. "But also, the more adversity you go through the easier it is to handle at the next level.”
However, Mark says he looks back on those days with a level of remorse.
"There was a lot of yelling, there were words I wish I could take back," he said. "There were things said and things done that I really regret. I think there were times where it probably hurt our relationship."
From the day Ty was born, Mark Jerome wanted him to play basketball.
"When he came home from the hospital when he was born, I put a regular size basketball in his crib," said Mark.
Ty grew up playing basketball in the local parks of New York City, where he began to develop the resiliency and tenacity which still defines his game on both ends of the floor.
"You think of guards out of NYC, you think of toughness," he said. "You think of tough guards that can get their own shot and guys who never back down to anybody. I think that's where I get that from, playing up, playing in the parks, playing with guys like that growing up it was really fun."
But before Ty earned a scholarship from Bennett to play at UVA, he had to play to the lofty standards set by his father. Which, as Mark himself says, was no easy task.
"Tougher and in some ways not very proud of some of the stories. I was tough, real tough in a lot of ways," said Mark. "There's been a couple of stories about my relationship with Ty and how hard I was on him and parents are saying 'I get it, I'm the same way, what kind of advice do you have for me?' And I tell them you don't need to be that tough, you just don't."
"You can't understand it because there's no need to be that way," he continued. "I don't even think I understand it all the time. It's not like I had this contrived plot and said when games are starting or during the course of the game I'm going to get really mad or be really tough and it's just sometimes that intensity starts growing inside you."
Mark may not look on those days very fondly, but when Ty and the Cavaliers defeated Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament championship game, all Ty could think about was sharing the best moment of his basketball career with his father and the rest of his family.
"As soon as the whistle blew I ran right to them," he said. "I looked for them and I ran right to them because I wanted to celebrate with them right away. They've sacrificed everything for me to be here and to see them proud and see them cry it was really emotional and amazing.
"The joy we were able to bring to people, and specifically for me the joy I was able to bring my family after all they sacrificed for me, that was an amazing feeling for me being able to celebrate with my parents and my brother and the rest of my family. That was the most special moment of my life, and if I'm fortunate enough to get drafted I can't imagine what that's going to feel like, either."
And that moment was just as special for Mark.
"It was amazing," a choked-up Mark told NBC Sports Washington. "My kid, who I had watched his whole life growing up and playing basketball. Everybody is celebrating and he comes running over to hug his mom and me and his younger brother. Of course, him winning I was so happy for him, for him to recognize at the end of winning a championship game his parents and his little brother."
"I don't know who does that. I wouldn't have. Who does that, what 21-year old does that? What adult does that?"
Now, Ty has his sights set on the NBA. In NBC Sports Washington's latest mock draft, he goes to the Boston Celtics at pick No. 22.
But no matter where he ends up, Ty says he'll embody the principles his father taught him: toughness, hard work, dedication.
"You are not going to have to worry about what Ty Jerome is doing off the court," he said. "Going to be on time, early to everything. First guy to the gym, last guy to leave. Be one of the hardest workers in the league, that guy is really professional, really accountable."
"I think people undervalue winning too much. I do whatever it takes to win."
Mark is confident his son will succeed at the next level, too. But of course, he's got some suggestions.
"Shooting, of course, is going to be really important," Mark said. "I think [Ty] can bring that to the table. I think he's got to get stronger and get more athletic, he's working on those things."
"I'm not nervous, I'm happy for him. I'm excited for him ... I don't think it's a chip, but he's always going to be self-motivated, no matter what. That's just something that comes from internally."
I AM THE PROSPECT
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