Jalen Green, The Youngest Player on USA U19 World Cup Team, Is Eager For More International Action
For the lucky few high schoolers who get to take the court with USA Basketball on an international stage, they get the opportunity to experience different countries and cultures with some elite basketball competition thrown in.
For Jalen Green, his second USA Basketball trip in as many years to Argentina included a particularly memorable stop.
“We went to an orphanage last year,” Green said of his journey with the 2018 USA Men’s U17 World Cup Team. “We got to talk with a lot of kids, play basketball with them. We gave them basketballs and t-shirts. It was fun. They really loved it. It was humbling, too, because those kids didn’t really have anything.”
Green is now in training camp after being selected for a roster spot with the USA U19 World Cup Team that will play in Heraklion, Greece, from June 29-July 7. This is the third straight year for Green competing internationally with a USA Basketball team. Green, and U19 teammate Scottie Barnes, will attempt to join an elite five-man list of USA players to have won gold at the U19, U17 and U16 levels. USA athletes who have accomplished this feat include Terrance Ferguson, Harry Giles, Josh Jackson, Jahlil Okafor and Jason Tatum.
It is also a summer of change. The 6-foot-5, 170-pound guard, announced in March he was transferring from San Joaquin Memorial High School in his hometown of Fresno, California, to Prolific Prep in Napa, California.
There was little left for Green to accomplish at Memorial from an individual standpoint, as he had already broken the school scoring record. He finished his Memorial career with 2,291 points, eclipsing the previous mark that had stood for nearly 50 years.
His primary reason for switching schools?
“I want to play a national schedule for high school and it is better training out here,” Green said.
It will also help sharpen his skills playing consistently against top-level competition.
“This summer, I’ve just been working on getting stronger, getting ready for that next level,” Green said. “My shot, creating in the half court and being more of a leader and on my defense.”
As you might imagine, Green is being pursued by many of the big-time college programs in the country, including the University of Memphis, University of Kentucky, University of Kansas, University of Oregon and UCLA. He said he isn’t sure when he will make a decision on his college home.
His stats are impressive and back up his standing as the No. 2 player in the country. After averaging 18.1 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as a freshman, he boosted those to 27.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game as a sophomore. During his junior season, Green upped his scoring average to 33 points per game.
His time with USA Basketball has been equally productive. In 2016, he won gold at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship, then was named MVP in leading the team to the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup gold medal.
“Representing the U.S., just playing the game we love is cool, it’s humbling,” Green said. “It’s a good experience and a different perspective on the game. It’s an all-around blessing.”
Like traveling to new countries, Green savors each opportunity with USA Basketball.
“It’s a whole different game with USA Basketball,” he said. “Going there gives you a better understanding of the game. You have different coaches giving you their experience and their insights about the game.”
At the U19 World Cup training camp, Green, at 17 years old, is the youngest player, a challenge he relishes.
“It helps me because I can go out there and still put on a show, do what I do best and get the recognition for being the youngest player there,” he said. “It can hurt me because a lot of the guys are obviously going to be more physically stronger than me. It might be a different perspective for them because they are older guys.”
While he is looking forward to his first season with Prolific Prep, he still has an eye on Fresno. Green was especially happy to set the school scoring record in the Central Section Division II championship game.
“It was cool. It was exciting for me,” he said. “I was happy I could do it in the (Central) Valley game, that was cool, all of Fresno showing up for that. It was a totally amazing experience.”
Being from a hard-scrabble city such as Fresno was another reason Green’s trip to the orphanage in Argentina last summer left an indelible impression. As he continues down the path basketball is taking him, he wants community work to be a big part of his life.
“That’s like the biggest thing, to give back to the community,” Green said. “People always talk about me and if I’m going to give back to Fresno. If I get there (to the NBA), of course I’m going to give back to my hometown.”