Scotlandville boys basketball coach Carlos Sample knew better than to expect the excited ramblings of a teenager.
When sophomore-to-be Ja’Vonte Smart called to talk about making the USA Basketball Under-16 national team Tuesday, the conversation was calm and collected, much like Smart’s game.
“He comes across as being almost nonchalant,” Sample said. “The truth of it is Ja’Vonte is just so humble. I know he’s excited about being on a national team.
“This is big for him, his family and for Scotlandville. Not many 16-year-olds get the chance to travel the world and see what he’s going to see. His focus is on getting better and helping his team. That’s the kind of kid he is.”
The 6-foot-4 Smart is part of the 12-player USA Under-16 squad announced Tuesday. The squad will continue practicing in Colorado Springs until leaving for the FIBA Americas Under-16 championships in Argentina on Saturday.
Current standouts who came from the USA Basketball U-16 ranks include Jalil Okafor (2011), Jabari Parker (2011) and Mailk Newman (2013). The selection to the USA squad continues a meteoric rise for Smart, who helped Scotlandville win its third Class 5A state title in four seasons with averages of 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.
Smart was MVP of the Class 5A title game. He scored 18 points and had nine rebounds in the title-game victory over Natchitoches Central. He also was one of five Freshman All-America picks by MaxPreps.
Baylor, Wake Forest and UMass have already reportedly offered Smart scholarships. Kentucky, LSU, Texas, North Carolina, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Mississippi State and Oklahoma are among those already expressing interest.
“I knew he had talent when he came here,” Sample said of Smart. “The way he approaches the game impresses me. He’s always there to help pick up his teammates.
“Of course, we’re preparing to play summer league without him. While he’s gone, the other guys will get a chance step up.”
Smart’s USA squad will meet Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic to open its FIBA competition June 10.