John Jenkins’s treasured possessions include a letter from former USA Basketball coach Gregg Popovich commending him for his role on the Tokyo Olympic team and a gold medal from those games.
His medal is an imitation. His efforts were genuine. And who knows, in a few weeks he may receive another shiny memento.
In recent years, as part of its preparations for major tournaments such as the World Cup, which begins on Friday in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan, USA Basketball has been bringing in a few additional players to assist with practices and exercises. Jenkins, Langston Galloway, and Eric Mika were selected for this excursion; they will return home on Sunday, one day prior to the United States’ departure for Manila and the World Cup.
Jenkins stated, “I’ve never been more appreciative than I am right now for having this opportunity granted to me again.”
These are not random individuals brought in to serve as tackling targets. Without a doubt, they could all be on NBA rosters right now. Galloway has participated in 452 NBA contests for seven different teams. Jenkins has played in 171 games for five different teams. In his lone NBA game, Mika scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds, more than holding his own against LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
They were among the 52 players, the majority of whom were from the G League, that USA Basketball brought in for the 12 qualifying games; six separate teams were assembled to play each of the two-game windows that ultimately clinched a spot for the United States in the World Cup.
“The people working for USA Basketball, we’re just placeholders, right?” asked Sean Ford, the men’s national team director for USA Basketball. “However, a large number of individuals contribute to making USA Basketball what it is. You will then own a piece of USA Basketball, and we can never have too many investors. So they feel a sense of belonging.”