Josh Christopher hadn’t even picked up a basketball at the Simon Recreation Center and yet he was already turning heads.
The 2020 five-star prospect surprised some scouts and players by participating in the Nike Elite 100 camp this past weekend at Saint Louis University.
The 6-foot-4 guard heads Friday to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to try out for the USA under-17 national team, which will compete in the world championships in late July in Argentina.
While Christopher, who is one of Missouri's top targets, was warned he could risk injury by playing in the camp, he thought the four-day event, which hosts the nation's top 2020 and 2021 prospects, was the best way to prepare for tryouts.
“It’s getting out, competing,” he told The Star after the camp ended. “I know Colorado is going to be a lot of running. It’s high elevation, conditioning, and this is just to get a natural competitive feel.”
Christopher, the cousin of Mizzou strength coach Nicodemus Christopher, had a strong showing at the camp.
A natural scorer, Christopher showed off his all-around game against some of the best players in his class. He rebounded and showed the ability to be a tough defender and impressed the audience with his passing.
Christopher fit the ball in tight windows to his teammates, including a behind-the-back, no-look pass underneath the basket to a teammate who was double-teamed.
Hailing from a basketball family, Christopher doesn’t see an excuse as to why he can’t be a complete player.
“I think it’s just my mindset,” he said. “Off the court, I think I’m an intelligent person. I try to bring that on the court. I have to make the right play for my teammates. People know I can score so I want to show different aspects of my game right now.”
Christopher emerged as a national recruit after averaging 14.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as a freshman at Mayfair High in California. This past season, Christopher averaged 25.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in leading his team to a 21-8 record.
Considered a top-10 player in the 2020 class, Christopher has handled the attention well and credits that to the environment he was raised in. He’s close friends with Shareef O’Neal, the oldest son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, and has vacationed with The Big Diesel numerous times.
When Christopher was playing AAU last summer for California Supreme alongside Shareef O’Neal, a 2018 recruit who has signed with UCLA, Shaquille O’Neal coached the team to a tournament championship in Las Vegas and had him over at his house in Orlando for a week.
“Those are my brothers and sisters,” he said. “From Reef all the way to the youngest. Those are just my people. If I ever need them I can call them. They’ll be around the rest of my life. The guy that you guys see on TV, he’s the same guy around the house without the cameras.”
Christopher has also become friendly with the hip-hop group Migos, through his friendship with the O’Neals.
“They’re good people man,” he said. “They play basketball a little bit. They’re just good people.”
Even though Nicodemus Christopher is a strength coach and doesn’t draw up plays or recruit, he was not allowed in the gym to cheer on his cousin at the camp.
He still came to St. Louis and got dinner with Josh and his father, Laron, who is Nicodemus’ uncle.
Missouri offered Josh Christopher shortly in April after the first Nike EYBL session in Dallas and he tweeted a photo of his cousin alongside the Missouri logo. Most recruits tweet pictures of standout players at the program when they receive an offer.
“Everybody loves the Missouri talk,” he said. "That’s family at the end of the day.”
Aside from Missouri, Christopher also holds offers from Cal, Oregon, UCLA, Florida State and USC among others.
Christopher isn’t really into the recruiting process that much right now, but expects things to pick up on Friday, when NCAA rules allow college coaches to start calling 2020 prospects on their own. Currently, only recruits can reach out to coaches.
The lone visit he wishes to take is to Missouri when things calm down after the AAU season and world championships, should he make the roster.
Josh Christopher used to spend the summer with his cousin when he was the strength coach at Cal and said he wants to check out the campus and see what the program has to offer.
For now he'll worry about Colorado, where he'll need an even better performance than in St. Louis, to represent his country in July.