Former St. Francis standout excited for next phase of pro career
by Bryan Fonseca
Aug 08, 2017 | 2006 views | 0 0 comments | 224 224 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo: Jeffrey Armstrong
Photo: Jeffrey Armstrong
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There’s only one thing Jalen Cannon regrets of his illustrious St. Francis Brooklyn basketball career, which saw him graduate as the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in school history: breaking his wrist late in his 2014-15 senior season.

That season, the Terriers finished 23-12 and earned their first National Invitational Tournament bid in over 50 years. But even Cannon will tell you, they should’ve been in the NCAA Tournament.

Nevertheless, the Allentown, Pennsylvania, native heads to Italy on August 18 to embark on phase three of his journey as a professional basketball player, a dream he meant to achieve upon leaving Brooklyn Heights, but as he says, “God had different plans.”

“I never really expected to be in Italy, that’s been a dream since after my first year of playing basketball as a pro, it just took a little while longer,” Cannon said. “I probably wouldn’t have jumped on that one play where I broke my wrist, but other than that I wouldn’t change anything.”

Cannon is over two years removed from graduating from the Remsen Street institution, and is about to spend his third season living the tough-to-attain dream of playing professional basketball.

While Cannon is not in the NBA (yet), his now three-year career has taken him to Italy, where he’ll compete for Fortitudo Agrigento in the Italian Serie A2 Second Division. In 2016-17, Cannon was in Israel competing for Hapoel Afula B.C. in Afula, where Cannon was one of the standout players in the league.

His career started in Mexico when he signed on late in the year while recovering from that broken wrist, suiting up for Jefes de Fuerza Lagunera in Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional.

“So far it’s all been a blessing,” he said of his early pro experience. “My first year, I thought it was going to be an amazing experience. It still was a great experience but certain situations were tough, like being away in a different country and not being able to see my family at times.

The second year in Israel, man, Israel’s a great place,” he continued. “I would tell anybody in the whole world they have to go there to visit at least once and experience their culture. Everybody welcomed me with open arms out there.”

Though his career has taken him many places away from the United States, the 24-year-old has recently found himself back in New York City, competing in the Sweet 16 of The Basketball Tournament in Brooklyn on behalf of Team Fancy this past July.

Cannon netted two and pulled down four rebounds in a four-point loss to Boeheim’s Army.

“Being back in Brooklyn was great,” said Cannon. “It felt like I was back at St. Francis. I didn’t get a lot of minutes, but I contributed what I could and it was a great feeling being in there. It felt like a rivalry game.”

Defense has been the downside of many basketball players who have failed to put together long-lasting careers. Time and again NBA players, as offensively gifted as they are, end up overseas after a few seasons, ultimately disappearing into the Euro spotlight.

However, some players can't even make it in the NBA D League as a result of their lack of defensive ability and effort.

Cannon, who grew into a very respectable defender at the collegiate level under coach Glenn Braica and his staff while at SFC, says adjusting on that side of the ball was the toughest part of playing in the pros.

He highlighted the differences in schemes between the collegiate and professional levels, which also may change based on the region. Overall, he’s thankful for the defensive tendencies he picked up at St. Francis.

“St. Francis is a small school and I’m glad I went there, it jumpstarted my career,” said Cannon. “At a bigger school I wouldn’t have been as far ahead as I am right now. I learned a lot from the whole coaching staff.

“I felt like I was well prepared because some of these guys that played at bigger schools, they’re just going through the motions,” he added. “No matter what, I’m always playing hard and playing defense because I always think of coach Braica and what he’s been preaching.”

Surely, the competition will be at a higher level in Italy, but Cannon insists he is more than ready for the challenge. He’ll be out there with some teammates from his AAU days, and all of the reviews have been really favorable. He’s excited.

“They played out there and everything they’ve told me is nothing short of great,” he said. “They’ve said the fans are amazing, the coach is laid back but he helps make you a better player, and the general manager is just a great guy.”

Throughout his journey, the St. Francis connection has remained. Cannon says that even today, his former college teammates have kept in contact, providing encouragement and uplifting messages regularly.

He hasn’t met all of his career goals yet, but while on the right trajectory, he’s at least enjoying himself and excited for the next chapter.

“I’m having fun, I’m blessed,” he said. “I’m still shooting to try and make an NBA roster eventually in my life. Even if I don’t get there I’m going to keep trying. I’m going to try and make a Euro league roster down the line. I have a lot of goals I want to achieve.”
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