Jeron Artest, son of former Laker star Metta Sandiford-Artest, is making a name for himself on the UC Irvine Men’s basketball team with his tough defensive-minded play style coupled with slick ball-handling skills which allow him to navigate around the court. However, his passion, devotion and understanding of the game stem from more than just being the son of an NBA champion.
When Artest was about five years old, his mother ensured her young son was active and began participating in soccer, basketball and gymnastics. His first experience playing basketball was at a camp at Chelsea Piers on the West Side of Manhattan in New York City.
“I don’t know if I was any good or not, but people said I was kinda natural at it, especially on the defensive side,” Artest said.
Although his father, originally known as Ron Artest before legally changing it to Metta World Peace in 2011 and to Metta Sandiford-Artest this past May, had been playing basketball since he was born, Artest did not show much interest in the sport until he got his hands on NBA 2K3, one of the earlier installments of the NBA 2K video game franchises on PlayStation 2.
“I would set up [different teams] to play against each other and I would act like I was watching the games. They were my first film sessions,” Artest said.
Artest was aware that his father played professionally, but seeing his father and other players in a video game was an influence on Artest’s burgeoning basketball career as he was able to virtually use any athlete he liked. He found interest in the way the game captured and simulated each players’ play style so accurately at the time.
“I was a big fan of AI [Allen Iverson] at the time, so I would usually play as him and the 76ers,” Artest said.
As he garnered more interest in the game and built his physique, Artest played basketball consistently at the age of eight. After watching an organized Amateur Athletic Union team practice in New Jersey, he felt he wanted to finally try out for one himself as he was attracted to the team’s passion for the game.
His first tryout went poorly, but he was determined to increase his skill, improve his form and expand his defensive abilities. After many hours of development alone on the blacktop and with the team on the hardwood gym floor, Artest improved greatly and tried out again in the years that followed.
Artest received advice and was truly mentored by his father, Sandiford-Artest, in high school.
“I feel like I’ve always had a natural love for the game. A lot of what I’ve learned hasn’t really come from my dad until later in high school. A lot of what I learned felt more like it was embedded in my instinct,” Artest said.
Without fully depending on his father, Artest nurtured his talent through his own methods. Not only did Artest gain experience just from his father, but he was also influenced by fellow players and friends.
“During private runs, I played with Ethan Anderson who’s at USC, some players from UCLA and Kihei Clark who’s at Virginia when they made their NCAA run,” Artest said.
Playing against rivals and people at his same skill level allowed Artest to learn new habits that helped him enhance his performance and development on the court. Since playing at Bella Vista College Preparatory School in Scottsdale, AZ alongside high-ranking recruits, Artest absorbed players’ techniques and applied them into his style on the court.
Averaging around 14 minutes and 2.8 points per game, Artest, in the 2019-2020 season, played a crucial defensive role as he garnered defensive stops for his team while using his fancy footwork to get past defenders or to find the open man on the floor. As a true freshman last year, he was able to get a feel for the college atmosphere and is eager to show fans how much he has developed.
“It’s not a good feeling knowing that wasn’t even our final form as a team and that we could’ve went and advanced in the NCAA tournament, but it brought the idea into perspective that any game could be your last,” Artest said.
Even though COVID-19 caused facilities to shut down, Artest stayed in shape throughout the following months. He improved his game through the summer with his older brother Ron Artest III, who plays at Cal State University Northridge, and his father.
On top of playing basketball, Artest was also able to spend quality time with his family, making beats with his older brother and sleeping over at his father’s house for most of June. It was a refreshing experience for Artest to see his brother play again after being injured for most of the 2019-2020 season.
Artest is more than a basketball player on the court. Off the court he is a computer game science major and is even creating his own version of Among Us with the Video Game Development Club. He aspires to be a tech startup entrepreneur and evidently enjoys programming his own games from scratch.
Whenever he has the time, Artest enjoys playing a range of video games such as Minecraft, Among Us, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Zelda: Breath of the Wild and more. Surprisingly, as much as he is into sports and has immense love for basketball, Artest does not play any sports games, especially NBA 2K.
“I avoid sports games. They’re bad to me. I don’t feel like they’re well designed or anything. Around 2K15 was when I stopped I think. VC [virtual currency] started becoming a big thing so it became a pay-to-win game,” Artest said.
As everything begins to slowly transition back to life prior to the pandemic, Artest and the Anteaters have been following guidelines and health protocols of in-person practices at gyms in preparation for the upcoming season. Artest, who continues to improve and practice every day devoting much time to the game he loves, is ready to make a name for himself in the college basketball world.
Avi Gokool is a 2020-2021 Sports Co-Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org