By JEREMY WOO
Special to ZAGSBLOG
MINNEAPOLIS — Justise Winslow put it frankly.
“We’ve got a big target on our backs.”
After leading his Houston Hoops squad to a 16-2 record across four EYBL sessions and a berth in July’s finals at Peach Jam, nothing about that will have changed for a team that is clearly one of the league’s best.
As part of a talented group that also features UNC commit Justin Jackson and highly-rated forward Kelly Oubre, Winslow began to find his personal groove in Minneapolis over the weekend after playing with a banged up knee in previous sessions.
Throughout the weekend, the 6-foot-5, 208 pound wing out of St. John’s High School in Houston displayed his powerful game. Winslow is adept at getting to the rim and a consistent rebounder. His lefty stroke continues to improve. He’s a terrific ballhandler with an advanced understanding of the game, and facilitated for his team when necessary.
USA Basketball has taken notice of Winslow’s unique skill set, naming the rising senior to next month’s training camp for the U19 World Championship squad. He and Chicago’s Jahlil Okafor are the two youngest players on the roster, but also arguably two of the most talented. The ever-competitive Winslow made it clear that he wouldn’t be attending camp just for fun.
“It’s an honor getting to go up against those older guys, but I want to make the team,” he said. “I know they’re older than me but I think I can make it. If I don’t I’ll be disappointed, but it’ll just make me even hungrier.”
A top priority for many college programs, Winslow will consider 10 destinations: Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Florida, Houston, Kansas, North Carolina, Stanford, Texas A&M and UCLA. He insists he’s still considering all of them equally. Although other schools continue to reach out to him, he said he hopes to narrow his list at least down to seven before USA camp starts.
Though Winslow briefly touched on his options, he made it clear that he has a lot to take care of before committing.
“I gotta figure out what I want,” he said. “Every school’s been recruiting me real hard. I’m looking for good academics, somewhere that can contend for a national championship and develop me for the next level, and somewhere I’m comfortable.”
Winslow has also been part of the speculation surrounding the connected decisions of top 2014 point guard Tyus Jones and elite center Okafor, whose desire to play together has been well-publicized. Winslow said he has spoken with them about joining forces, as did Chicago’s monster of a big man, Cliff Alexander.
Still, all four of them have some thinking left to do. And though any potential team-up between them is an exciting prospect, Winslow made it clear that his own decision will come first.
“We all just gotta do what’s best for ourselves,” said Winslow. “And if that means going to school together, then that’s what we’ll do.”