From McDonald’s to DICK’S to Jordan and more, elite hoopers face crazy schedules

Jaren Jackson Jr. acknowledges that the last few weeks have been grueling, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t relished the experience.

Jackson, a Michigan State signee from La Lumiere (LaPorte, Ind.), is in the process of the grand slam for elite high school basketball players: McDonald’s All America Game, DICK’S Sporting Goods Nationals, Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic.

“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “I’ve been able to take it all in. Most high schoolers don’t get to do this. I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to be around great players and be acknowledged among the best in the country. It’s been fun to see guys I know at each stop.”

This is what his calendar has looked like:

March 26: Arrive in Chicago for the McDonald’s game and take part in first practice.

March 27-28: Practice for McDonald’s All America Game.

March 29: Play in McDonald’s All America Game.

March 30-April 1: Travel to New York as La Lumiere won three games in three days to win DICK’S Nationals.

April 2: Return to Indiana.

April 3-4: School and then leave after school on April 4 for Portland.

April 5-6: Practice for Nike Hoop Summit.

April 7: Play in Nike Hoop Summit.

April 8: Return to Indiana.

April 9: Day off

April 10: Visit Indiana state house to be honored with his teammates for national title.

April 11: Leave for New York and Jordan Brand Classic.

April 12-13: Practice for Jordan Brand Classic.

April 14: Play in Jordan Brand Classic.

“I’m holding up pretty well,” Jackson said. “Your legs get tired at the more grueling event like McDonald’s and Dick’s. The little break going into hoop summit was good so I was able to get a little rest before going out to Portland.

“But this is a process. It’s helping me learn what college is going to be like — taking care of your body, getting ice baths, and trying to get rest, not staying up on your phone late at night. All the things you need to do to take care of yourself.”

Jaren Jackson (Photo: Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)

Jackson is not alone among players with grueling schedules. Trevon Duval from IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) also played in the same four events as Jackson but played two fewer games after IMG lost in the DICK’S quarterfinals.

Duke signee Gary Trent Jr., from Prolific Prep (Napa, Calif.), did not play at DICK’S Nationals, but will make another cross-country trip the weekend of April 19-21 to play in the Iverson Roundball Classic in Virginia.

Kentucky signee P.J. Washington, from Findlay Prep (Henderson, Nev.), did not play in the Hoop Summit, but will take part in the Iverson event.

“The experience has been great,” Washington said. “I’ve had so much fun over the past couple of weeks and I would do it all over again. The traveling is tough, but I just love to play so it doesn’t really affect me.”

For Jackson, though, the combination of events was an interesting mix between team goals and personal goals. The DICK’S represented a chance to win a national title with his teammates; the All-America events represent a chance to impress NBA scouts.

“Winning the DICK’S Sporting Good Nationals was our goal all year,” he said. “I had to change my mindset from McDonald’s back to more of a team mentality. It’s been a team-first, all in mentality (at La Lumiere) since Day 1. (At McDonald’s and other events), you’re going mostly for yourself. You want to prove who you are in in different way —  show your personality, show you are a good person on and off the court. …

“At DICK’S, I was more running on adrenaline than anything else. I was exhausted, especially from playing the semifinals late Friday to the finals early Saturday. There wasn’t much time in between.”

And then there was the adulation when the team returned home to La Porte.

“It was crazy,” he said. “We knew the amount of support we had, but we didn’t really know. There was a police escort to the school and cars were rolling like 20 deep. People were honking their horns and signed a big poster for us. We had the mayor come to our school and gave us our own day in La Porte at a ceremony for the trophy. There was crying, videos with highlights and it was just great for us to get those acknowledgments.”

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