John Jenkins wants the NBA to be a part of his future.
For now, this would be the next best thing.
In little more than one week, the Vanderbilt shooting guard hopes to be on a plane headed for Shenzhen, China, and the World University Games. In order to do that, Jenkins will have to outlast at least nine other competitors at a training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Station Camp High grad will arrive there on Friday and will be one of 21 college players from across the country vying for one of the 12 final spots on the United States team.
“You see a lot of NBA players and they play for the USA team. You think, ‘Wow, I want to do that one day,’” Jenkins said. “I think any time you have USA across your chest, it is a huge deal and a great honor. So I am just happy I have a chance to represent my country.”
Finalists will be announced Sunday and training camp will continue until Aug. 7. The official roster will be determined before the team leaves for China on Aug. 8. The World University Games will run from Aug. 13-22.
Purdue head coach Matt Painter will lead the team and will be aided by Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin, along with Brad Stevens of Butler. Head coaches Tony Bennett (Virginia), Sean Miller (Arizona) and Shaka Smart (Virginia Commonwealth) will serve as court coaches during training camp.
Every player at the camp was selected by the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Committee, which is chaired by Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.
The list of invitees ranges from power conferences and mid-majors. Shabazz Napier from defending national champ Connecticut, Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs and Scoop Jardine of Syracuse are among the more recognizable attendees. Jenkins won’t be the only representative from the Southeastern Conference. Alabama’s Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green also will be there.
“It is going to be tough for sure,” Jenkins said. “It is going to be very difficult. Everybody can play. Nobody is a guy that you can say, ‘Well, he might not be that good.’ Everybody is good there. I am just going to go out there and compete. I love to compete.”
The 6-foot-4 Jenkins raised his game last year when he led the SEC in scoring at 19.5 points per game.
For an encore, he wants to lead the Commodores deep into the NCAA Tournament. They have failed to get out of the first round the last three tries.
With all five of last year’s starters and the top three reserves returning, along with three promising incoming freshmen, Vanderbilt is ranked as high as fifth in some early preseason polls.
“We have the talent to be a Final Four team,” Jenkins said. “We just have to be able to finish games and capitalize on the mistakes we had last year. Definitely I think we can be a Final Four team if we keep playing hard and keep our minds right.”
Jenkins took classes in May and June but took off in July to prepare for the training camp. He lifted weights and worked out with forward Jeffery Taylor, who stayed on campus for the summer since his family lives in Sweden.
Jenkins also spent a week in St. Louis recently with Belmont guard Drew Hanlen. The rising senior owns a personal training business, Pure Sweat Basketball. His clients include John Wall, Corey Brewer and David Lee.
Jenkins was in search of a new personal basketball trainer when former director of video operations Sam Ferry left the program in April to join former Vanderbilt assistant King Rice’s staff at Monmouth. So he reconnected with Hanlen, with whom Jenkins had trained previously. The two have worked out together constantly over the summer, with Jenkins joining Hanlen in his hometown of St. Louis to work out with other players and helping out local basketball clinics.
“His workouts are extremely hard conditioning-wise and it keeps you focused,” Jenkins said. “A lot of things he does is ... how to counter on people and finishing toward the basket. So working with him is really kind of beneficial for me because those things that he works on with me is stuff I really need in my game.”
Thanks to the summer conditioning, Jenkins has dropped his weight to 205 pounds. He teetered between 210 to 215 pounds during last season.
“I’m not really trying to be a muscle man,” he said. “I want to make sure I’m toned up and fit and really in shape.”
And hopefully he’ll be in good enough shape to crack the top 12 and achieve another goal.
“To have the opportunity to do that it would just mean a lot to my family, myself, friends, Vanderbilt, my coaches,” Jenkins said. “It would be all around just a good experience for me.”