Justin Jackson and coach Roy Rana fly the flag for Canada in Portland, Oregon, this weekend aiming to continue the country’s run of recent success in the Nike Hoop Summit, one of the most high-profile games in the world of junior basketball.
Hoop Summit pits the USA Basketball Junior National Select Team against a World Team, selected from players around the globe, with this year’s event taking place at the Moda Center on Saturday April 9.
The USA currently holds a 12-6 all-time record against the World Team who will be coached for a sixth successive year by Rana, a highly successful coach with the Canadian national team programme.
But since Rana took over the reins, the World Team has enjoyed its best-ever run of success, with the Canadian currently boasting a 3-2 career record in the Hoop Summit.
Tellingly, each of the three wins on Rana's watch have seen key contributions from Canadian players - former number one draft picks Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins in 2012 and 2013, respectively, and guard Jamal Murray in last year’s victory.
It is a run of success that reflects Canada’s growing status on the world stage and one which Jackson, a 6'8" forward from Hill Academy, Brantford, Ontario, would like to continue on Saturday.
"Of course I am proud to represent Canada," said Jackson on Tuesday, after day two of the week-long practices being overseen by Rana in Portland.
"It's a great experience, any time you get to play for your country. I love my country and any chance I get to represent it, I will take to the fullest."
"I want to win but I also want to display my skills in front of all the NBA scouts and everyone else watching. But more than that, I want to make friends and good relationships, on and off the court. It’s just a great experience."
That experience for Jackson includes playing on a 12-man roster which features players from 11 countries and six continents.
"There are a lot of top players here," he said. "A lot of different styles, so it is good to get the chance to play with a lot of good guys."
"I knew a few of them though it can be a little bit of a challenge with the language barrier. But we’ve all come here to play basketball and once you get out on the court we all speak the same language."
"The main thing coach always talks about when we play the USA is about our ability to play together as a team. We all know how the USA play - they like a one-on-one style of basketball - so our advantage is playing together as a team, a a family. And that side of it is going very well, we’re getting closer on and off the court."
The number of watching NBA scouts in attendance for practice and the game itself is no surprise given that, as of October 2015, 111 active players in the NBA had appeared for the USA or the World Team in a Nike Hoop Summit - an astonishing number that represents nearly one-quarter of the entire league.
And Coach Rana believes that Jackson's talent means he belongs in such company.
"He's a different type of talent to what we've had from Canada before," he said. "In some ways, he’s the most versatile, the most complete player at his size that we have had."
"He’s a great playmaker, can play some point guard, he can play multiple positions. He can score, he can shoot, he can really pass. He's a big guard and he reminds me in some ways of Magic Johnson! And he’s also a great kid."
Selecting "great kids," building individuals into a cohesive team unit, has been key to the World Team's success in the five years under Rana and the coach believes the Nike personnel have again selected a group good enough to continue their winning ways against the USA.
"It's a group that is really trying to establish itself," said Rana. "In some ways, their chemistry, their ability to pick things up and learn is quicker than some of the teams we have had in the past."
"It's a nice group that looks to play together and share the ball and they will hopefully improve as the week goes on. "
"But every Hoop Summit is different and we just try to prepare the group and hope that when the lights come on on Saturday they play well and with confidence."
"When it comes down to it, as much as we want to win, we also know it’s a good opportunity for the players to show who they are and showcase their talents. Winning is the gravy on top."