Plenty of talent has come through the Mission Prep Christmas Classic over the 19 years in which it has been held. Current NBA stars such as James Harden, Demar Derozan and Jrue Holiday have all taken the court.
But never has the tournament — which started Wednesday — seen a more highly touted prospect as Jalen Green, a lanky 16-year-old from Fresno’s San Joaquin Memorial High School.
It’s likely neither has Fresno.
Green is the No. 1 prospect in the 2020 recruiting class according to Rivals, and he has been discussed as the potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft following what is sure to be a one-year college career.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
He has garnered comparisons to Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Penny Hardway. Green is lethal passing or attacking out of the pick and roll, with the ability to get to the rim — or above it — whenever he wants. He also helped the U.S. win the U-17 World Cup this summer in Argentina.
As Bleacher Report wrote in a lengthy profile, “Green may just be the most exciting thing happening in Fresno.”
The shooting guard has offers from 18 Division I schools, including UCLA, Kentucky, Arizona and Oregon.
But make no mistake, he is focused on just playing basketball.
“He never brags about anything,” Bree Purganan, Green’s mother, told the Fresno Bee. “His friends say they don’t know about half the offers (Jalen) has because he doesn’t say anything about it. It’s just so crazy to me that a 15-year-old can be like that.”
Memorial doesn’t let students play if their GPA drops below 3.0.
Of course, in the scope of college basketball recruiting, it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. Green isn’t exactly the first highly touted recruit to come out of Fresno. Former NBA player DeShawn Stevenson was drafted out of high school in 2000. Other notables include Memorial graduates and current NBA players Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez and Quincy Pondexter.
Apart from his play, Green should be easy to spot in SLO this week. He’s single-handily bringing back the retro shorts, à la John Stockton, and likes to wear different colored sneakers.
Memorial was scheduled face off against host Mission Prep at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the nightcap of the tournament’s opening day. It will then play Redondo Union at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and also on Friday and Saturday night in yet-to-be-determined games.