Surprising NBA Player Named Best Player At USA Basketball Training Camp

Getty Image / Ethan Miller

It’s flown way under the radar, but the FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup is coming up soon. and, USA Basketball will be the favorite once again.

They will look to take the title back from Spain, who won the tournament back in 2019. The USA, which did not exactly send their A-team, took an embarrassing 7th place.

This year’s tournament, which will get underway for the USA Saturday, August 26 at 8:40 AM local time in Manila, Philippines against New Zealand, will also not feature the absolute best players the US has to offer. But, it’s still a good squad.

USA Basketball, now being coached by Steve Kerr, just finished up their training camp for the event, in Las Vegas, and a surprising choice was voted as camp MVP by their peers. Here’s The Athletic with more.

It was a campaign of action, not words. There were a number of worthy candidates who made their case as the top member of Team USA over four days on the campus of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, but the end result was a landslide.

By a vote of his peers, Jaren Jackson Jr. was selected the “best,” or “most impressive” or “stand out” player of the now-completed FIBA training camp, according to an informal poll by The Athletic of the entire Team USA roster, Jackson included.

“Jaren, particularly (Saturday), his energy and the way he went to the glass and went to the foul line every other possession,” said point guard Jalen Brunson, in articulating his support for Jackson. “He was just really a force (in the Saturday scrimmage against the U.S. Select Team).”

“I’d say Jaren Jackson, just the way he was bringing energy, toughness,” Josh Hart added.

“I thought he was a huge presence,” Paolo Banchero concluded of Jackson.

Because this is a story about a straw poll, let’s briefly review the methodology. The Athletic approached all 12 American players Sunday at the conclusion of training camp for the FIBA World Cup. With the team’s first exhibition game looming Monday against Puerto Rico, we asked one simple question: Who was the best player in camp?

The body of work voters had to consider included one intrasquad scrimmage, two scrimmages against the U.S. Select team, and also team drills on Thursday and Sunday. As previously mentioned, this was a straw poll, so players were permitted to vote for multiple teammates if they chose.

Team USA’s best day by far was Saturday in the scrimmage in which it manhandled the group of younger NBA players, and Jackson made a noticeable difference on both ends of the court. On Sunday, coaches (not knowing about the straw poll) showed players tape of the scrimmage before practice, and Jackson’s highlights clearly made an impression.

Jaren Jackson Jr., is coming off the arguably the best season of his career for the Memphis Grizzlies.

The 23-year old averaged 18.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks, all of those being the highwater mark of his career so far. He was named the Hakeem Olujawon Defensive Player of the Year, first team All-Defense, and made an All-Star game.