Kenneth Lofton Jr., Team USA leave for Europe to Compete in U19 World Cup
Published 12:40 am Wednesday, June 30, 2021
This time last year, Kenneth Lofton, Jr. was in his hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, anxiously waiting to get to Ruston to begin his freshman year as a Bulldog.
It has been a meteoric rise ever since for the power forward.
He came off the bench in his first collegiate game to play just 12 minutes. Less than two weeks later, he was dropping a double-double at LSU. And by years end, he was scoring the game-winning bucket in the NIT consolation game, registering a career-high 27 points and 13 rebounds.
The awards stacked up in the process. C-USA Freshman of the Year. Third Team All-Conference USA. NIT All-Tournament Team. Second Team All-Louisiana.
Now, Lofton, Jr. is off to Europe along with his Team USA teammates as the 12-member group is set to play in the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup in Latvia.
“Training camp was a hard battle,” said Junior. “As it went along, I just continued to play basketball. Just do what I was doing in the season my freshman year.”
Junior only had two days and four practices at TCU, home of the training camp, to impress the coaching staff and the selection committee to make the first cut.
Consider them impressed.
After being one of only 27 players from across the country to be invited to the Team USA U19 training camp, the 18-year old was announced as one of 17 finalists to make the squad.
Three days later, after several more grueling practices, it became official. Junior received the news that he was going to go out of the country for the first time to play for his home country.
“When I first heard I made it, it was a blessing,” said Lofton, Jr. “To be able to be a part of the United States, to represent my family, my hometown of Port Arthur, Louisiana Tech, it is a big deal. They said it was a hard decision. It has been great competing against some of the best players in the country.”
The team embarks on the long journey to Latvia. Asked what he knows about the host country, Junior quickly replied, “Nothing.”
“I do not know what to expect,” he continued. “All I heard was it is an 11-hour flight. That is going to be a long flight.” That flight to
Latvia is going to make that flight to El Paso, Texas seem like a breeze.
He and his teammates will have just a few days to adjust to the time difference and shake off the jet lag as the World Cup gets underway for Team USA on July 3 against Turkey, followed by a matchup with Mali on July 4 and a close preliminary play versus Australia on July 6.
“I never thought I would be playing for Team USA,” said Lofton, Jr. “It was unreal when they called to give me an opportunity to try out.
“I had a great freshman year at Louisiana Tech. Once I get back to Ruston, I will continue to keep doing what I have been doing, grinding. I want us to become a better team and get to the NCAA Tournament.”