By Gabriel Stovall
JONESBORO, Ga. — M.J. Walker has accomplished a lot in his 3 1/2 years on the basketball court at Jonesboro High School. But he could be on the cusp of arguably his best achievement yet.
The 6-foot-5 rising senior and two-time Class AAAA state champion was given word Thursday that he made the cut of 18 finalists for the USA Mens U18 National Basketball Team.
The list of potential players narrowed from 26 to 18 after four trading sessions, and the players were selected by a committee led by Syracuse Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim.
Walker was one of just two players from Georgia making the next-to-last cut. James Banks out of La Lumier Prep School in La Porte, Ind. is listed as hailing from Stockbridge.
Walker paced the Cardinals with 22.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game as Jonesboro fell short of a three-peat by losing to Liberty County in the 2015-16 Class AAAA championship game.
The National Team’s training camp in Colorado Springs, CO will extend through June 18 and then reconvene in Houston July 11-15. The U18 squad will compete in the 2016 FIBA Americas U18 Championship July 19-23 in Valdivia, Chile, and the final 12-man roster will be unveiled just before the team departs to Chile, according to www.usab.com.
Whoever will adorn the final roster will be sure to be a well-coached bunch, as Texas head coach Shaka Smart will take on head coaching duties. Recent national championship winning coach Kevin Ollie of UCONN and Maryland’s Mark Turgeon will round out Smart’s staff.
The top four finishing teams will earn a trip to the FIBA U19 World Championship in 2017.