Mater Dei players traveling to China for hoops, cultural experience


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Mater Dei Prep student-athletes Elijah Barnes (senior) and Kenny Jones (junior) are traveling to Beijing, China, as part of the Global Squad with John Alexander and the Alexander Basketball Academy.

The U.S. team, consisting of 10 students from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland, arrives in China Aug. 3 and stays through Aug. 11. According to Alexander, the team will train and scrimmage with local players, competing against Chinese teams and finding time for some sightseeing. During the trip, the team will stay at the Li Ning Sports Center next to the Olympic Village in Beijing.

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“For six years, Global Squad has been bringing players from around the world to the United States [to play basketball],” Alexander said in a press release. “Now we will be taking a team of U.S. players to China for a unique basketball and cultural experience.”

The Chinese teams competing against the Global Squad are the top four 16- to 18-year-old teams in that country and will play for their National Championship. The trip provides the American students the chance to compete against international athletes, to showcase American basketball and to learn about the Chinese culture.

Both Barnes and Jones already have some experience interacting with Chinese students in the classroom and socially. Mater Dei has a robust international student program, with approximately 20 students from across China enrolled each year.

Mater Dei’s boys basketball coach, Ben Gamble, is excited two of his athletes have this opportunity.

“Elijah and Kenny have set an example for other student-athletes,” he said. “They embody the Mater Dei Prep academic and athletic philosophy.”

According to Gamble, receiving this invitation is a direct result of putting school first. Barnes has already committed to Princeton University for 2017, and Jones is being recruited by several Ivy league, Atlantic 10, American East and Metro Atlantic conference institutions.

“Basketball is providing a great opportunity for these young men,” Alexander said. “I’m very excited for our team to play against some of the best high school players in China, see Beijing and interact with students from a different culture.”

Barnes and Jones led the Seraphs to their first Shore Conference Tournament championship last winter. The Seraphs had their finest season, going 26-2 and ranking first in the conference.

They were 14-0 in Shore Conference B Central Division play, winning that title as well. Mater Dei defeated Christian Brothers Academy, 50-43, in the historic Shore Conference Tournament finals.

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