Cliff Alexander Looking To Make Big Impact In 2014 Nike Hoop Summit
For Cliff Alexander, a 6-foot-9 center out of Chicago, Ill., Saturday’s 17th annual Nike Hoop Summit will be a new experience, and yet, not entirely new at the same time.
As a member of the 2013 USA Basketball 3x3 U18 National Team, Alexander traveled to Washington, D.C., to represent his country at the 2013 FIBA Americas 3x3 U18 Championship, and then to Jakarta, Indonesia, where he took part in the 2013 FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship.
“It was a great experience,” Alexander said of the 2013 3x3 national team. “When we first got our jerseys, we were in Washington, D.C., we all were excited and proud. We put on a clinic.”
The USA did steamroll through its competition at the zone qualifier, finishing 5-0 to earn a gold medal. At the FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championship, however, the USA took ninth place despite a 7-1 record, narrowly falling to Lithuania in the Round of 16.
“Everybody in Indonesia had us to win,” Alexander remembered. “We got a lot of support in Indonesia. We were the show to watch. Everybody wanted to see the USA play.”
In the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit, Alexander will play on his first 5-on-5 national team as the USA Junior National Select Team, which is comprised of elite high school seniors, takes on the World Select Team, which features some of the best talent age 19 years old or younger from around the world.
The USA will be looking to capture its first win in the event since 2009, although it owns an 11-5 series advantage.
“I hope that everybody stays focused, and hopefully we come out with a win,” Alexander said. “I heard the USA has been losing the last couple of years, and hopefully we end that losing streak on Saturday.”
Though the USA will have just six practices as a team before taking on the World Team on Saturday, Alexander said he know what will be expected of him.
“Practice has been good,” Alexander said. “Everybody has been competing every time we step on the court, during the drills and everything, everybody is competing. For me, I know I just need to do the stuff I usually do, rebounding and trying to block shots.”
For those who might have already seen Alexander play, perhaps in the 2014 McDonald’s All-American Game last week, there is one aspect of Alexander’s game that is hard to miss – his explosiveness around the rim.
“I love dunking on people,” he admitted. “It just makes me want to go hard every time I step on the court.”
Though his high school season is complete, Alexander has more basketball in the near future, even beyond the Nike Hoop Summit. Next week, you can catch him, and all 10 of his fellow USA Junior National Select Team members in the Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 18.
It is a hectic pace for any player, but Alexander said he has a game plan for his time, which is to, “just go home and relax. For the few days that we are home, relax and prepare our bodies, and then we are back at it again. I chill and watch TV and play video games.”
Beyond this spring, Alexander said he already is looking forward to his next step, which is arriving at the University of Kansas, where he has signed a National Letter of Intent.
“I chose Kansas because I like the way coach Self develops big men and his style of play,” Alexander explained.
For now, however, Alexander has his usual game plan to help him stay focused on the present.
“For me to get ready, I just listen to music before I step on the court,” Alexander said. “I listen to my favorite song before a game and just get my mind focused.
“Everybody knows that we have to come out here and win on Saturday.”
Watch for yourself as Alexander and the USA Junior National Select Team take on the World Select Team in the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2, and if you are in the Portland area, tickets are just $5.