Yahoo Sports NBA reporter Krysten Peek spoke with Memphis Grizzlies and USA Basketball center Jaren Jackson Jr. about his experience playing for the national team, which players he can’t wait to match up against, and why he has cut off some of his friends from the Grizzlies to lock in on bringing home the Gold Medal.
KRYSTEN PEEK: I’m Krysten Peek here with Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson, Jr., who will be representing Team USA in the FIBA World Cup over in the Philippines later this month. He won a gold medal with Team USA in 2016 for the U-17 World Cup. This is obviously much different, but how excited are you to represent Team USA again?
JAREN JACKSON, JR.: Oh, yeah, this is crazy. Definitely a little bit older, probably a little more– a gold medal’s a gold medal, but it’s a little bit different. And just you’re kind of– all eyes are on you for a little bit. And yeah, we’re just trying to represent our country. It’s a huge honor. I definitely take it seriously, for sure.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Yeah, this is a very young group. I think the average age is 24 years old. Who surprised you the most these first couple days of practice?
JAREN JACKSON, JR.: Probably Ant-Man, Ant-Man. I mean, I can’t say he surprised me. He’s just doing what Ant does. And BI’s doing– it’s hard to say because everybody’s kind of doing what I’ve seen them do in the NBA.
Just their intensity, though, to defense is what surprised me with the whole group. I think they just– everybody really talks loud and plays hard, and that stuff runs the floor.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Was there a player that you were most looking forward to either battling on the court in practice or getting to know a bit better when you saw the roster?
JAREN JACKSON, JR.: Probably Tyrese, probably Tyrese and probably Jalen, just because they’re two point guards I don’t play with. And it’s just good to, like, kind of mix it up and see– pick their brain and help me play with my point guards better, and help me kind of learn and grow. So maybe that, just point guard perspectives.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Any team you’re looking forward to playing in the FIBA World Cup? I know your teammate Santi is playing for Spain.
JAREN JACKSON, JR.: Spain and Canada, Dillon and Santi. That’s really it for me. Maybe Luka or– like, just on that level. But I mean, Santi and Dillon, for sure.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Have you guys– are you in a group text at all?
JAREN JACKSON, JR.: No.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Talking a little trash yet?
JAREN JACKSON, JR.: I’m not talking to them. This is serious business.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Yes.
JAREN JACKSON, JR.: I’m not talking to Santi until I get back to camp. And I’m not talking to DB. I might talk to DB a little. Eh, no, I’m not talking– I’m not talking to DB, even though I texted him, like, maybe yesterday. But soon, I’m going to stop talking to both of them.
KRYSTEN PEEK: Yes. Who do you think will be Team USA’s toughest competition?
JAREN JACKSON, JR.: Probably Canada. Probably Canada for sure, just because you just see who they got over there. I don’t even want to name their players, but you see it. [CHUCKLES].
KRYSTEN PEEK: Yeah, all right, well, Jaren, thank you so much for joining us, and good luck with Team USA and the FIBA World Cup.
JAREN JACKSON, JR.: For sure. Thank you.