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Top hoops prospect Jalen Green has all-star dreams crushed by coronavirus pandemic

The NBA hopeful discusses missing out on chance to play in showcase events

Jalen Green has a photo of himself holding up a McDonald’s All-American jersey, signifying his place as one of the top high school ballers in basketball. But he won’t get the chance to play in the all-star classic after the April 1 game was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nor will he be able to showcase his talents in the Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit this spring.

“I was hurt. I am not going to lie. Those are all games you dream about as a senior,” Green said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “When I found it was canceled, it was heartbreaking, low-key. But I’m good. Everything happens for a reason. They’re not going to bring it back, but just to be announced as a player selected for that is cool. So, I have that honor.”

Green, who is ESPN’s No. 1 ranked boys high school player, headlines one of the most talented classes ever. He stars for Prolific Prep in Napa, California, a top-ranked prep basketball program that has also featured current NBA players Josh Jackson and Gary Trent Jr. A 6-foot-6 guard, Green has the potential to be the top pick in the 2021 NBA draft.

Green also attends Napa Christian High School in Napa for his education and will soon begin online studies after he returns from spring break. The 17-year-old spoke to The Undefeated about how the coronavirus has affected his high school basketball career, whether it affects his college decision and more.

ESPN’s top-ranked recruit Jalen Green holds his McDonald’s All-American jersey.

Rick Manahan

For basketball fans who won’t see the Class of 2020 in these all-star games, what are they missing?

We are the best class that was going to be in these games. We have a lot of players in this 2020 class who really do it all. We are close with each other. Our chemistry is down. It would have been fun and exciting games. At the same time, we battle. It would have been exciting …

[The all-star games] were supposed to showcase how hard we were working with all the top players in the country. That is just going to make me work harder.

Have you been given any jerseys to commemorate being selected for those high school all-star games?

That’s what we are trying to find out if we are going to get stuff. I have the McDonald’s jersey that they gave me to take a picture with before our senior night [at Prolific Prep]. But it is not like our real number is on it or it’s a real jersey. It just showed that we made the [McDonald’s] game.

Do you take pride in your ranking as the top high school boys basketball player?

It’s cool to have that title. But I don’t really try to focus on that too much. It’s not really a big deal because rankings don’t really mean anything. It’s about what happens when you show up.

What is your daily routine now?

I am in the gym when I can be, but mostly I’m in the house. It’s crazy. Everyone is going to go on lockdown soon. I just try to keep working. I am in Napa still. … I am good. I am trying not to focus on the outside stuff. I’m trying to get better. College is coming up. Just trying to get prepared for the next level.

Does this change your college recruiting process? (Green has visited Oregon, Auburn, Memphis and Kentucky.)

I have been in contact with the coaches that are recruiting me already. It really doesn’t change anything. I took all my visits already and I got a pretty good look at the schools that I went to.

Do you have a college decision date in your mind?

It should be April 15 … around that date.

You’re close with former high school star R.J. Hampton, who skipped college to play professionally in New Zealand this season. Would you consider playing professionally outside of the NBA?

All options are open. I talked to R.J. about it a couple times. We weren’t in contact much when he was out there. He said he liked it. I saw his progression and he got better there. He said he got stronger there and it was a good move. Really, everything is open and an option.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell (left) at one of Jalen Green’s basketball games.

Green Family

Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell came to one of your games this season. What NBA players have given you the best advice?

D-Lo [Russell] for sure. I can reach out to him anytime. That is like big brother. Steph [Curry], I used to work out with him. Dennis Smith. There are couple others, but those are the main guys I talk to.

What is the best advice an NBA player has given you?

D-Lo told me just to be happy. Have fun while I was hooping. That was pretty much the best advice.

What are you doing now outside of basketball?

There will be schoolwork as soon as we get back [from spring break]. I got some online classes. … I go to the gym. Sleep.

I don’t really play video games. Everyone asks why I don’t play. I played video games when I was younger. I got older and wasn’t interested in it.

You left the high school in your hometown of Fresno, California, to play on a highly competitive level with Prolific Prep your senior year while attending a local Napa high school. What would you tell an elite player considering that route?

Definitely do it if you want more competition. At a regular high school, you can pick up bad habits and things like that. So, if you want more competition, a bigger stage, get stronger, a prep school would do that for you. I would highly advise it.

What is it like going to Napa Christian High while playing for Prolific Prep?

It’s a smaller school. Less kids. But they’re supportive. It’s just like a regular high school. I think the kids knew who I was, but not my story.

Jalen Green preparing to drunk.

Courtesy of Prolific Prep

Were you planning on going to any proms?

I want to go to one, but I don’t know how it is set up right now with the virus going around. I went to one my junior year and that was my first real one. … Hopefully, there will be another one.

Prolific Prep is still slated to play for a national title in the Geico National Championships, which has been postponed indefinitely. Do you still hope to play in that?

Yeah, I am still hoping it takes place. I want to win that national championship. That is a big tournament with all the best teams. I think Prolific Prep is being slept on and we were going there to prove yourself. Hopefully, they bring it back.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.