Roster Spot is the Prize at the End of Josh Christopher’s Hard Work
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. It’s an age-old adage, but one of particular meaning to Josh Christopher.
The 6-foot-5 combo guard/forward out of Lakewood, California, came up short on a couple of previous attempts at joining USA junior basketball teams. He was a finalist for both the 2018 U17 and 2019 U19 national teams, getting cut from the roster after being a finalist both times.
Heading back to the west coast last year after the USA training camp, rather than jetting to Greece to join many of his contemporaries in international play, Christopher pondered letting go of his dream to represent his country.
“My history teacher and I talked USA Basketball all the time, but I was cut from a few tryouts and was questioning whether I should try again,” he said. “But a friend of mine really convinced me that I had to go for it.”
Christopher went for it once more, participating in the 2019 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team October minicamp. Fast forward a few months to February — he got the call.
“I was heading back home from practice or a workout, usual stuff, and my dad got the call,” he said. “I was feeling pretty confident and hoping for some good news.”
Good news it was. On the other end of the line was USA Basketball Men’s National Team assistant director Samson Kayode, and he was delivering the long-awaited message: Christopher had made the cut for the USA team in this April’s Nike Hoop Summit.
“It feels good to have been resilient and finally get what I’ve been trying for,” he said.
And that friend with the pep talk to convince Christopher to stick with it?
“I feel pretty good that I listened to him.”
Christopher, a 2020 McDonald’s All-American, recently wrapped up four varsity seasons at Mayfair High School in his native Lakewood. One of the very top-ranked recruits in the country, he has collegiate offers from Arizona State, Kentucky, Missouri, UCLA and Michigan.
He has yet to announce where he will play college basketball. Though many reports claim he will commit to wear the maize and blue of Michigan, at this point he is focused on the red, white and blue.
“It’s going to feel great,” Christopher said of the thought of wearing “USA” across his chest. “Even putting that practice jersey on means a lot. But putting on that official jersey? I can’t even imagine — it’s going to feel so much better. I’m super stoked about it. I mean, that’s America!”
While it is expected that Christopher will bring some added scoring punch to the Hoop Summit squad (25 point-plus games were the norm during his time at Mayfair), one of the USA’s newest players said he is more than just offense.
“I think I can pretty much do everything,” he said. “I mean, I’m a scorer, but also think I’m a two-way player and can be one of the best defenders on the court.”
Josh is the latest in a line of Christophers to have excelled on the hardcourt. His oldest brother, Patrick, was a two-time All-Pacific-10 Conference honoree at the University of California before playing professionally with the Utah Jazz, as well as overseas. His sister, Paris, played for St. Mary’s College, and brother, Caleb, currently is a freshman at Arizona State University.
“I’ve been playing basketball since forever,” the youngest Christopher said. “I had a ball in my hand when I was still in diapers.”
With basketball in his blood, it’s not a surprise that Christopher holds the joy of the sport and sees it as a method to show others who he is. Counting the state championship that Mayfair won during his junior year among his top lifetime memories, Christopher speaks of basketball as an artist might of oils or clay.
“It’s an opportunity for me to express myself,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to have fun, be a competitor and be my best. That’s the joy I find in it. Basketball has opened a lot of doors for my family.”
With his high school basketball career concluded in the wake of a season-ending playoff loss in February, Christopher is setting his sights on a future that boasts the prospect of collegiate, and possibly professional, success.
However, before any of that lies an April 10 date in Portland, Oregon, as the USA takes on the World Select Team. Christopher is ready to show America and the world what he can do.
“I want to get a win and have a good time doing it,” he said. “It really means something, putting that jersey on. I want to win for my team and for my country.”