After all, basketball is in his blood.
His dad, Curtis Withers, was a college star at Charlotte. He was named All-Conference for the 49ers three times and went on to play professionally overseas. Jae’Lyn’s dad has pushed him to get better and provided a lot of motivation and perspective.
“Every day he tells me [to] stay in the gym,” Jae’Lyn said. “Don’t let nobody get a step ahead of you. He says, day in and day out, whenever I talk to him, enjoy the moment because this is an experience he always wanted to have.”
Family is very important to Jae’Lyn. A big factor in the Charlotte native transferring to UNC was to be closer to his family so they could attend more games. Given he was born when his dad was only 16, he has grown up alongside his parents.
“My mom is definitely my mom, but I definitely see my dad as like a brother to an extent,” Jae’Lyn said. “We grew up and experienced a lot of the same things.”
One of 14
In his junior year of high school, Jae’Lyn averaged a double-double, was named first team all-state and led North Mecklenburg to a 27-2 record. In his senior year at Cleveland Heights, he averaged 19.8 points and 9.7 rebounds. Despite a successful high school career, UNC did not recruit him then.
Head coach Hubert Davis did this time.
Davis directly reached out to Jae’Lyn after he entered the transfer portal. His pitch was simple. The Tar Heels needed a 4-man who could make a big impact this season, and Jae’Lyn will look to do just that.
He brings versatility on both ends to the power forward position. In addition to highlight reel dunks, he can also stretch the floor, having shot 41.7 percent from three last season at Louisville. Jae’Lyn hopes to take his game to the next level this year by improving his efficiency and consistency.
Defensively, Davis has helped him get better. Jae’Lyn’s length and strength, combined with his quickness, allow him to guard any position. He compared himself to Leaky Black on the defensive end and set a personal goal to win ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
But Jae’Lyn, what do you really want to get out of your time in Chapel Hill?
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“That’s a rhetorical question,” Jae’Lyn said with a chuckle. “Of course a natty. Everybody wants that whenever they come here.”
He is just one of 14 working towards a common goal. The culture and chemistry are strong. And Jae’Lyn said everyone — “one through 14" — has made strides so far and that everyone brings pieces to the court that make him and the team better.
So, what will Jae’Lyn and his teammates need to do to achieve that goal?
“I think that through the tough days and the storms, we have to stay together,” Jae’Lyn said. “I think that’s honestly what gets it to where teams can hang up banners. We pick each other up whenever we fall. And I think that, if one through 14, we do that, I think that’ll take us a decent amount of the way."
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