WALNUT CREEK, Calif. – Depressed. Anxious. Lost.
Those feelings engulfed MarJon Beauchamp early last year after he seriously contemplated giving up on an NBA dream that seemed like a long shot. But thanks to the G League Ignite, the forward will likely have tears of joy and an inspirational comeback story to tell Thursday when he’s expected to be a first-round selection in the 2022 NBA draft.
“Everything I went through, when I really look back at it, I don’t think people really understand. I was going to quit basketball,” Beauchamp told Andscape. “To not quit and to be where I am today, I still can’t process it. It’s amazing and I just want to inspire the next person. That’s what it’s about.”
Beauchamp averaged 15.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists last season for the Ignite, the NBA’s developmental basketball team that played its second season of G League exhibition games. The Yakima, Washington, native, who is 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, has worked out for at least 12 teams with first-round picks ranging from third to 25th overall.
He is considered a mid-to-late first-round prospect after being invited to the NBA draft green room.
Several NBA scouts believe Beauchamp can fit in with any team immediately due to his versatility, athleticism, G League experience and an extra edge gained from humility after his fall from grace in recent years.
“I’m happy for the kid,” one Eastern Conference scout said. “He’s a big-time athlete who has worked hard to become a really good basketball player. He is a kid who continues to adjust and puts the work in. He will be one of these athletic wing players who every team has now. He can defend, score, rebound, get 50-50 balls and just bring energy. …
“You put a hurdle in front of him and he figures out a way to overcome it. Those guys tend to make it. Those are the guys with a chip on their shoulder.”
Said another Eastern Conference scout: “He has the potential to be an elite defender. MarJon can be an impact player if he gets to the right team.”
MarJon Beauchamp’s plan of bypassing college to train for the NBA draft was derailed by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images
Beauchamp’s basketball story actually had a promising start, as he was considered one of the top high school prospects in the Class of 2020.
While playing at his fourth high school in Arizona, Beauchamp had scholarship offers from Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Georgetown, Southern Cal, Washington and Washington State. He was ranked 47th in the ESPN 100 best high school basketball players for 2020. But instead of going to college, he surprised many by announcing that he would train for a year with the Chameleon BX program in San Francisco in preparation for the 2021 NBA draft.
A then-skinny Beauchamp’s main attraction to Chameleon BX was to improve his body before going to the NBA. The program was founded by renowned trainer and self-described “Life Changer” Frank Matrisciano, who once trained Brooklyn Nets forward Blake Griffin and seemed like a fit for Beauchamp, who needed to be one year removed from his senior year of high school to enter the NBA draft.
“I didn’t think I was going to come into college and just really be an X factor,” Beauchamp said. “I was skinny. I didn’t weigh that much. So, I went to the Chameleon BX one time, trained, and I was like, ‘Damn. I feel like this can really get my body prepared and stuff like that.’ I know [skeptics] questioned my not playing and stuff, but I was really focused on my body. …
“The best part of it was really just the workouts was really getting me prepared. But the workouts were so tough that you got to be mentally strong to really get through that. I feel like that really built my mentality to really be like I can do anything. And that’s the good part. And I gained like, 30 pounds.”
Beauchamp and fellow high school four-star standouts Kyree Walker and Maxwell Lewis joined the program in 2020, expecting NBA-experienced coaching, speed, strength and nutrition training, educational options and potential sponsorship opportunities.
One NBA scout said Beauchamp’s work ethic was likely enhanced by being in the mentally tough program. But Beauchamp, Walker and Lewis left Chameleon BX in the winter of 2020 without being coveted by NBA teams after the coronavirus pandemic added numerous restrictions to the program.
“COVID happened. We weren’t getting in the gym. They shut the gyms down there, so I was like, ‘I got to do something else,’ ” Beauchamp said. “I just told them, like, ‘Yeah, I think I’m going to leave and go back home and just figure out everything I want to do.’
“I was kind of mad because there were supposed to be ex-NBA coaches training us and teaching us the game, the NBA game. And that’s not how it went down, so I had to get out of there. We weren’t learning the NBA game.”
Jon Beauchamp, who played basketball at Eastern Washington and Highline College, tried to remain positive for his very frustrated son.
“We kept praying,” Jon Beauchamp said. “I told him when we left, ‘Don’t worry about it. MarJon, life is where if you work as hard as you can on a certain thing and try to get there, it’s going to happen for you.’ ”
Beauchamp said he suffered from depression and anxiety when he returned home to Yakima in February 2021 after leaving San Francisco. He described it as the “toughest and darkest time,” a time when his dreams of being an NBA player seemed laughable. He moved in with his mother, Denise Pleasant, and wallowed in pity.
There was no real plan B. Beauchamp says his only guiding light at the time was praying with his grandmother.
“I went home, and that’s when everything fell down for me,” Beauchamp said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I don’t know what I’m going to do. To be honest, I wanted to quit. I was over it and everything. I started getting more high anxiety on everything because I wanted to be in the league. I was seeing draft boards and stuff and I’m not on it. So, I was like, ‘Damn, I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ ”
Just the thought of how downtrodden her son was at that time made Pleasant teary-eyed when she reflected on it.
“I told him to, ‘Be strong, keep your head high and talk to God. Don’t give up. Everybody falls, but it’s about what you do when you get up,’ ” Pleasant said. “I know he was in a dark place, but I knew he was going to come out of it. It was one of the lowest times he has ever been in. But I know he’s strong. He inspires me. I just told him, ‘Just keep your faith.’ ”
Beauchamp ended up going down the street to two-year Yakima Valley College in hopes of getting in the gym to do basketball workouts. The college ended up convincing him to play during their 12-game 2020-21 season, which was shortened by the pandemic. He found his love for the game again, averaging 30.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
“It was good just to be playing again. To get that love for [the] game again, because I didn’t play in a year, so I feel like it was the best decision I could have made in the situation I was in,” Beauchamp said. “The first game I played, I was kind of shaky just playing out there. But then I got back in my groove.”
Beauchamp said he received interest from LSU, Arkansas, Oregon, Washington, Washington State, Texas Tech and Xavier after his juco stint. But some eligibility questions made those options tough to come to fruition. Meanwhile, his father believed the G League Ignite was a better option after seeing Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga use the program to become the second and seventh overall picks, respectively, in the 2021 NBA draft.
Jon Beauchamp called G League Ignite program manager Rod Strickland to let him know that his son was still interested in joining. Strickland, who played for the Portland Trail Blazers during his NBA career, had been interested in MarJon Beauchamp since his high school days and had known his dad since his days with the Trail Blazers.
“I called Rod Strickland and said, ‘We’re just one year out of high school. Is this still an avenue?’ ” Jon Beauchamp said. “It was a better avenue than trying to go to school and dealing with the grades [requirements], and school stuff that ain’t basketball. He was at a different mindset.”
“A lot of us go through obstacles and give up. He is one who has shown already and demonstrated that he will not give up on his dreams, and he is going to do anything to come through.”
— G League Ignite coach Jason Hart on MarJon Beauchamp
Beauchamp accepted an invitation to work out in Memphis, Tennessee, with former NBA sharpshooter Mike Miller, who is an NBA agent. Strickland went to Memphis to watch Beauchamp in those workouts and to meet with him.
“I was intrigued by him,” Strickland said. “I always thought he was a talent. I thought he was one of the top guys, no matter the rankings. And so, I went to Memphis. Sat down with him. Had dinner with him. Talked to him about Ignite. We had a conversation about him. What he’s been through, his journey.
“I was impressed. I saw his workout. I knew he was intense; he was focused. We sat down. We had a conversation. And honestly, we spoke, and the way he spoke to me, I looked in his eyes, and he just seemed like a young person having a rough go. And he was looking for opportunity.”
From left to right: G League Ignite players MarJon Beauchamp, Jaden Hardy and Dyson Daniels are each expected to be selected in the NBA draft on June 23.
Emilee Chinn/NBAE via Getty Images
Strickland offered the Ignite opportunity to Beauchamp at $75,000 rather than top dollar. While some Ignite prep stars made as much as $500,000 in its first two seasons, Beauchamp gladly accepted.
“Rod Strickland didn’t really have to sell it,” Beauchamp said. “He said, ‘We’ll take care of you and all that. You’re going to learn the game.’ But he told me straight up, ‘Nothing’s promised. You’re probably not going to play that much. So, you’re going to have to earn it and stuff.’ I just needed the opportunity, so I wasn’t even worried about all that.”
The G League Ignite had prep phenoms from the United States and internationally with much more acclaim in Dyson Daniels, Jaden Hardy, Michael Foster Jr., Fanbo Zeng and 17-year-old Scoot Henderson, who are all top prospects for the 2022 draft. Beauchamp was suddenly overlooked as a 21-year-old but came ready with a chip on his shoulder to training camp.
Beauchamp didn’t disappoint, averaging a team-best 36.6 minutes and was second in scoring and rebounding. One big knock is Beauchamp’s 3-point shooting, as he made just 24.2% of his 3s last season. Ignite head coach Jason Hart believes Beauchamp’s game and tough road will combine to make him a successful NBA player.
“MarJon is a young man who obviously had a dream like so many millions of kids to make it to the NBA,” Hart said. “His role was less conventional than others, but he was still able to stay focused and keep his dream intact. What I would say to any NBA team that is thinking of drafting him is that he will not let obstacles dictate his ultimate prize of becoming an NBA player.
“And that’s huge because a lot of us go through obstacles and give up. He is one who has shown already and demonstrated that he will not give up on his dreams, and he is going to do anything to come through.”
MarJon Beauchamp said he battled anxiety and depression being away from basketball for portions of the pandemic. “I started getting more high anxiety on everything because I wanted to be in the league,” Beauchamp said.
Klutch Sports agent Calvin Andrews got the news last week that Beauchamp secured one of 20 coveted spots in the 2022 NBA draft green room. That honor comes with expectations that the prospect is an expected first-round pick. The No. 1 pick in the first round of the draft will make $9 million next season, while the 30th and last first-round pick will make $1.8 million. Beauchamp said that his family has long been struggling financially.
Andrews FaceTimed Beauchamp to deliver the news, leaving the likely soon-to-be millionaire understandably speechless.
“When I told him, he got really quiet. I said, ‘Are you OK?’ He was grateful and said, ‘Thank you.’ If there is a kid to root for, it’s him.”
Beauchamp said he is much happier now as the depression and anxiety are gone. He hopes his story can motivate those in trying times that a better day will come with hard work and perseverance.
“Really just having faith in the Lord first always, and just never quit,” Beauchamp said. “I was this close to quitting. And if I would have quit, I wouldn’t even be here. You’re going to go through stuff, and it’s only going to build you to what you’re becoming. I’m a strong believer in that because I’ve seen it happen to me.”
Said Pleasant: “He’s made me so proud, even if he doesn’t dribble another basketball ever again.”
Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.