Pair of USA Basketball Athletes, Cliff Alexander, A’Ja Wilson, Earn Naismith High School Player of the Year Honors
Two athletes who won gold medals on USA Basketball teams this past summer, Cliff Alexander and A’Ja Wilson, turned in spectacular senior seasons at their respective high schools and were rewarded with the 2014 Naismith National High School Player of the Year Trophy.
Alexander at first was in a state of disbelief.
“It felt pretty good (to hear the news),” he said. “My AD at my school told me yesterday that I won. But, I didn't believe it and then I got on Twitter and saw all the Tweets and other messages.”
“To be nominated for this award was a phenomenal accomplishment, but to actually win the award is truly a blessing,” said Wilson, who won gold as a member of the 2013 USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team. “Having the opportunity to play (on the) U19 USA Basketball (Team) helped me to further recognize that positive leadership and hard work plays a vital part in achieving success. It was one of the best experiences of my life and it enabled me to be around a great group of female athletes and be trained by great coaches both on and off the court.”
University of Kansas-bound Alexander, a 6-foot-8 forward from Chicago’s Curie High School, last summer teamed up with University of Tennessee signee Larry Austin, University of Colorado commit Dominique Collier and Cleveland State University’s DeMonte Flannigan to win the 2013 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Championship. They then went on to capture gold with a perfect 5-0 record at the FIBA Americas 3x3 U18 Championship. Traveling to Jakarta, Indonesia, for the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship, the USA 3x3 U18 World Championship Team rolled through pool play undefeated with a perfect 7-0 slate. However, Lithuania prevailed over the USA in the Round of 16 to dash the USA’s medal hopes, and the U.S. finished the competition with a 7-1 record and in ninth place.
Most recently Alexander, a 2014 McDonald’s High School All-American and the 2014 Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year, posted 25 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocked shots in the Illinois Class 4A regional semifinal, however, his squad fell to DuSable High School 88-85 to end Curie’s season.
The youngest member of the USA U19 squad that posted a perfect 9-0 record and captured the gold medal at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship in Lithuania, Wilson averaged 10.9 points and 7.9 rebounds off the bench in the USA’s golden run. Prior to arriving in Lithuania, Wilson aided the USA squad to a 3-0 exhibition record against U19 teams from Australia, Canada and Spain in the Canary Islands, where she posted 8.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game.
As a senior at Heathwood Hall High School (S.C.), Wilson recently concluded her high school career by leading her team to the South Carolina Independent Schools Association AAA State Championship. She also was named the 2014 WBCA High School Player of the Year and a 2014 McDonald's All-American.