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USA's Jalen Green used to being target, trending on social media
SANTA FE (FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018) - If there are three things you can say United States guard Jalen Green is accustomed to, they could be wowing people with his athleticism, having a target on his back and trending on social media.
Green is actually hoping he could get a fourth in there from the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2018 - namely winning championships for USA Basketball.
Green is leading USA in scoring with 14.8 points to go with 2.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals in Argentina through the Quarter-Finals. His most impressive showing came in the Quarters against Croatia as he scored 23 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter, including 21 points on 5 three-pointers in a 4:37 minute stretch.
The 27 points were the second-most for a USA player in U17 World Cup history following only Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's 30 points against Canada in the 2010 Semi-Finals.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist holds the all-time mark for USA Basketball of points scored in a U17 World Cup game with 30 against Canada in the 2010 Semi-Finals.
"One thing that Jalen has done a tremendous job of is he has bought into what we’re trying to do with USA Basketball," USA coach Don Showalter said. "His defense has improved tremendously in the past year. He's extremely athletic, as everybody can tell, but he’s worked on the finer points of his game, so he's much more of a complete player than he was last year."
Green, who won't turn 17 years old until February, averaged 9.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in helping United States to the FIBA U16 Americas Championship 2017.
"It's great to play against other competition out here in a different country. We’re out for a gold medal. I was here last year for U16, so to come back out for the World Cup is a good opportunity," Green said.
Green’s athleticism has regularly produced amazing highlights - just like in Argentina. That attention - in addition to his ever-improving all-around game - has led to Green slowly becoming a target as he is widely considered the number one player in the 2020 graduating high school class in the States.
So, it's really not that big of a deal for him to have the rest of the globe targeting him and USA at the U17 World Cup.
"It's great. I'm ranked really high in the nation. I always have a target on my back. Coming out here and having another target on my back feels great, just coming out to battle hard," said Green, who will be heading to his junior high school season this fall in California.
Green hasn't been fully dedicated to basketball that long, as he grew up on the US west coast playing American football, basketball, tennis and track and field.
"At first it was mainly (American) football, but then I got hurt and I stuck to basketball," said Green, who turned to basketball full time at 11 years of age.
This past March there was an eye-opening experience for Green as he traveled to Philippines with a group of Filipino-Americans from California.
"It was a great experience," he said. "We came together and didn't play that good, finishing third. I broke the scoring record with 51 points. They all looked up to me. I won the dunk contest. it was just another great opportunity - like this."
Green also won over the fans of basketball-mad Filipinos because he was actually one of them - his mother’s grandfather hails from Philippines.
"To just go out and represent that Filipino side of me and put on a show playing the game I love, it was a great experience," he said.
Green also did his part in blowing up social media channels with his performances there, which included a big dunk over Kai Sotto, one of Philippines' biggest hopes for the future.
"I was trending top-three on Twitter out there, so it was crazy just how much hype I was getting because of that," said Green, who currently has more than 114,000 followers on Instagram and over 6,800 on Twitter - a number that is also going up thanks to his showings in Argentina.
In the end, for Green, it is all about getting the United States to the fifth straight Final and keeping their unbeaten streak.
"It's great. We represent USA and to keep playing, and not losing is the best thing we can do out here," he said.
And what would it mean to head home as a champion for a second time following last summer's U16 Americas success?
"I would be so happy. It would be my second gold medal. It would be a great opportunity," Green said.
Yes, winning titles is something to which Green would gladly get accustomed.