Kenneth Lofton Jr. spent last week in Fort Worth fighting through two-a-day practices, workouts and even a minor ankle injury while competing with 27 of the country’s best young basketball players.

Lofton impressed the USA coaches enough to make the under-19 national team, but that was the easy part according to the Port Arthur Memorial graduate. Now, the real work begins as the 12-man squad readies for the upcoming 2021 FIBA World Cup in Riga, Latvia.

Playing time will be at a premium, and Lofton’s mindset hasn’t changed even after securing a roster spot.

“We’re still competing now for a spot on the floor,” Lofton said. “It just never stops.”

With the USA squad set to leave for Latvia, Lofton and the crew will have plenty of adjustments to make for the international level. Many of them, like Lofton, have never been outside the United States, let alone been to Latvia before.

“Nothing at all,” Lofton said when asked what he knows about the country. “I don’t know what to expect. All I heard was that it’s going to be an 11-hour flight.”

But the travel time won’t be the only change. Many on-court adjustments will also have to be made by the players.

A few FIBA rules differ from the college or high school level, like a shorter shot clock and the ability to tip the ball off the rim.

“(The coaches) tell us a lot about the differences,” Lofton said. “Now, it’s just remembering it when you go off to Europe.”

Lofton said he’s kept in touch with his Louisiana Tech teammates during the USA basketball process. While he’s been training for the FIBA World Cup, those Bulldog teammates have been in the middle of summer workouts back on campus.

Lofton expects the USA basketball experience will help him immensely as he looks to follow up a stellar freshman season at Louisiana Tech, in which he led the team in scoring (12.1) and rebounding (7.5) per game.

Since making the USA roster, Lofton has caught the attention of multiple big-name athletes from Port Arthur, including former All-Pro NFL running back Jamaal Charles and NBA champion Steven Jackson.

When Lofton first got the news he’d made the team, his thoughts immediately went back to Port Arthur.

“I think I’m the first one out of my city to ever do this,” Lofton said. “I don’t think even Steve Jackson made the USA team, so it’s just been a blessing.

“I’m ready to show everyone what I’m about and what I’ve got,” he added.

The FIBA Under-19 World Cup gets started for Team USA on Saturday against Turkey, followed by a matchup with Mali on July 4 and Australia on July 6 to close out preliminary play.