The NBA League Office recently awarded its 2023-24 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award to Minnesota Timberwolves center/forward Karl-Anthony Towns. And JJ Mandaquit of the Grind Session’s Utah Prep had a vote in the decision-making process.

One of the nation’s top p in the class of 2025, Mandaquit served as this year’s youth representative for the award’s selection committee. Other voters for the award ranged from Abdul-Jabbar himself to various social justice leaders from across the country – an honor that doesn’t go unnoticed for the four-star prospect.

“To be on that panel was unbelievable. For them to allow me to put in a vote, and to talk and learn from others was great,” said Mandaquit, who also served on the Jr. NBA’s Court of Leaders.

The Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award is given to the basketball player dedicated to pursuing social justice and living up to NBA legend Abdul-Jabbar’s and the league’s vision of equality, respect, and inclusion. Towns emerged as the winner among the five finalists who were in the running to receive the honor. The other finalists included Miami Heat center-forward Bam Adebayo, New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Lindy Waters III, and Los Angeles Clippers guard Russell Westbrook.

The importance of this award is not lost on Mandaquit. Having a voice in the room with someone of the stature of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an experience he will forever cherish.

“It meant a lot. To see how much he cares, and all the stuff he continues to do off the court is pretty special,” said Mandaquit.

Despite being a junior in high school, Mandaquit’s impact exceeds his youthful presence. He looks to give back to his community by using his platform, with the help of his family. He has organized a free youth basketball camp in his native Hawaii to inspire those younger than him.

“I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of young kids that look up to me. The basketball camp was to spark interest in the little kids, to show that I do care about them, and I want to see them love the game and have fun,” he added.

Mandaquit burst onto the national scene last summer as a member of Team USA’s Under-16, winning gold with the squad at the 2023 FIBA Championships in Mexico. He backed it up this past winter at Utah Prep by being named the Grind Session’s Offensive Player of the Year, averaging 18 points and seven assists a game. To put his junior year performance into perspective: The Grind Session winter circuit of high school basketball events has produced nearly 100 NBA players over the past 10 years, including Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), LaMelo Ball (Charlotte Hornets), DeAndre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic), Jalen Green (Houston Rockets), and Jamal Murray (Denver Nuggets), just to name a mere few.

The consensus four-star prospect’s basketball reputation continues to grow, and his career options have expanded by the week. To date, he has received scholarship offers from nearly 20 schools, including Louisville, Illinois, UCLA, LSU, Arizona State, Washington State, Tennessee, and Utah, among others.