The Westchester Knicks’ guard is one of nine NBA G-League players that will represent the United States as they seek to qualify for the FIBA World Cup.
WHITE PLAINS- Westchester Knicks guard John Jenkins is adding some red and white to his traditional blue repertoire.
The veteran guard is set to join the United States national basketball squad, as the team continues the qualifying process for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Jenkins, 27, entered Tuesday night as the team’s leading scorer at 29.6 points per game, good for fifth in the NBA G-League.
“Going on to represent Team USA, that’s every kid’s dream,” Jenkins said shortly after he led the Knicks with 25 points in a 93-90 win over the Long Island Nets. “I’m looking forward to it. It (stinks) that I have to miss some games here, but that’s part of it. I’m looking forward to it and learning from a great coach like (Jeff) Van Gundy, meeting new people, experiencing the world.”
Jenkins is in the midst of his second year with Westchester, added to the team’s roster in October. After putting up a 21.1 scoring average last season, he made a big mark on the Westchester record book on Nov. 10, scoring a franchise-record 44 points in the team’s 125-104 win over the Lakeland Magic.
A former first-round pick, chosen 23rd overall by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks in 2012, Jenkins is hoping his time with both the national team and the Knicks’ affiliate in White Plains will lead to a return to the primary Association.
“I’ve just been super comfortable. I think me going to Spain helped me out a lot,” Jenkins said, praising his time with CB Miraflores of Liga ACB. “(Head) coach Mike (Miller) has been incredible for my development, challenging me on offense and defense every night. I’m just trying to make him happy and be with my team.”
Jenkins has partaken in 153 games over five NBA seasons, including eight postseason contests with the Hawks. The Vanderbilt alum’s most recent NBA action came in December 2016 with the Phoenix Suns.
The World Cup qualification won’t be Jenkins’ first experience with USA Basketball. In 2011, Jenkins was part of the American basketball contingent at the 2011 Summer Universiade in China. Playing alongside future NBA All-Star Draymond Green, Jenkins led the team with 17 points in the team’s quarterfinal defeat to Lithuania, though they would later defeat Romania to secure a fifth-place finish.
He would go on to lead the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game.
“We’re all still friends. I talk to Draymond still,” Jenkins said. “We had maybe a month together, in Colorado first, then we went to China. You just build friendships that last forever, something that goes beyond basketball.”
The American team for the 2019 World Cup, set to be held in China from Aug. 31-Sept. 15, will next play Argentina on Nov. 29 and Uruguay on Dec. 2, both on the road. Partaking in the Americas portion of World Cup qualifying, USA Basketball is currently tied with Argentina for first place in Group E play. The team is coached by former Knicks boss Jeff Van Gundy.
The win over Long Island continued a five-game homestand at Westchester County Center for the Knicks, who will next take on the Wisconsin Herd on Friday night (7:00 p.m., Facebook Live).