As the basketball season at Montclair State University continues to roll into the final stages of the regular season, there is one name who is looking to excel in the last few weeks of his junior year, while at the same time becoming a leader.
Red Hawks’ junior Jovanni Chantam has enjoyed his time with the team. His continued hard work in both practices and in games has helped lead his team in a year where he’s steadily increased his offensive production.
The moment he wanted to play basketball was after watching the 2000 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Indiana Pacers. He was inspired by a classic pull-up jump shot from Kobe Bryant.
Chatham, originally from Brooklyn, is a junior and physical education major at Montclair State University. He is one of the key leaders for the team, especially with his final season approaching next semester during his senior year.
Transferring from junior college at SUNY Broome Community College to Montclair State has been different for Chatham especially with him being the star player in his old team.
“It’s completely different,” Chatham said. “When I was in my junior college, I was a sophomore, I was the leader and everybody looked forward to me and I knew exactly how to approach it and how to do it.”
Chatham averaged 24.5 points per game during his sophomore season at SUNY Broome Community College.
“When I came here, I took a backseat to Brandon [Channer] and at first it was hard,” Chatham said. “I was trying to figure it out, but after a while, I started to get used to it. The transition went pretty good.”
So far this season, Chatham has scored over 160 points in over 460 minutes of playing time this season, averaging 8.5 points per game. That also includes a .410 field goal basket percentage (57-for-139) and a three-point basket percentage of .294 (15-for-51) up to this point of the season.
He’s been playing basketball for the vast majority of his life. His uncle and brothers also played. Basketball has always been with him. He just took it all in and ran off with the knowledge and skill for the game.
“He was actually one of our main recruits coming in; I actually recruited him the year before,” Marlon Sears, the Red Hawks men’s basketball head coach, said. “He’s a kid who I really think is going to come along. It just takes time.”
Chatham recalls he instantly clicked with his teammates the moment he came to Montclair State, especially with his roommate, sophomore guard Isaiah Channer.
“He’s a great friend and teammate,” Isaiah Channer said. “I know he’s got my back with whatever I need, and I have his back. We look out for each other off the court which makes it easier to play with each other on the court.”
Chatham has been in his best stretch of games recently. He specifically recalls his performance against Rowan University on Jan. 28. He considers it his favorite memory so far as a member of the Red Hawks men’s basketball team. He dropped 20 points and the team got the victory.
“When you come into another state and another school, you have to re-adjust to the rigors of the academics, going to classes, study hall and accomplish different things,” Sears said. “To see him blossom at this time of the season, it makes me very happy.”
Chatham knows the expectations placed upon him, but is committed to continue working hard, to provide his team with consistent contributions.
“You play against great players every day and practice against them,” Chatham said. “You have to bring it every time—no breaks, no resting, you’ve got to be ready to play hard.”
He credits his family as being the most supportive of him throughout his athletic career, especially his mother and brother. They’ve come to every game he’s played in since he was a young kid and have always been there for him.
Chatham also tries to teach the younger players some of the things he has learned before, including coming in with the right attitude, working hard and finding ways to contribute in any way they can.
He has also drawn inspiration from one of the senior leaders on the team. Brandon Channer has been a main player that has stood out to him, and is someone he looks up to.
“We have a good leader in Brandon. He leads us very well,” Chatham said. “I try to learn what he does, work hard, take some of the things he does and follow him.”
Channer has been impressed with the way Chatham has played in his first season with the Red Hawks and knows there’s only good things to come.
“He’s very talented,” Channer said. “In each game, I think he’s getting better and better. He’s just a great kid who comes in every day and has a great personality and is a great teammate to be around.”