Previous USA Basketball Experiences Guide Returnees To Where They Are Today
- Photo Gallery: July 24
- Day Three Practice Quotes: Practice Quotes: USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Harrison Barnes, Kenneth Faried, Greg Monroe & Tyler Zeller
July 24, 2013 • Las Vegas, Nevada
Before the opening USA Basketball Men’s National Team mini-camp practice began on Monday, nearly 80 percent of the invited participants already had an understanding of what USA Basketball signified.
If one has ever been a member of a USA Basketball team, they immediately accept the fact that individual egos are pushed aside and sacrifice is a routine process in order to achieve the common goal.
“USA Basketball is always like super competitive,” Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker said. “The coaching staff always tries their best to make great players buy into one concept. It’s always been the same thing, and that’s what I love about it because you’re always bringing in great players from around the country who can do so many things, but they play as one.”
The togetherness mentality has guided the USA Men’s National Team to two straight Olympic gold medals as well as the 2010 Men’s FIBA World Championship title. At mini-camp this week, several of the players earlier in their careers competed for FIBA World Championships and even a select few, captured gold medals.
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal for example is someone who won a pair of gold medals during his time in high school and he states that his previous experience with USA Basketball prepared him in receiving an invitation to this week’s camp.
“I think I got a lot better in terms of just putting the ball on the floor more,” Beal said. “Overseas is all about shooting and then being able to create for others as well. I’m definitely developing that part of my game not only for USA Basketball, but for the Wizards as well. I definitely have a lot to improve on, and I think I definitely got better over the years.”
In 2007, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan was a member of the USA Men’s U19 World Championship Team. The team competed in Novi Sad, Serbia, and won silver after falling to host Serbia in the gold medal game. Jordan acknowledges that he’s more mature and mentally stronger these days.
“It’s been what seven years since that? Man, I’m in the NBA now,” Jordan said. “Guys have gotten better now. We’ve all progressed. USA Basketball is just the pinnacle of basketball, man.
“This is it.”
One of just six first time USA Basketball participants at mini-camp happens to be Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons. The 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year said that when he was growing up in Casselberry, Fla., he always dreamed of one day playing for USA Basketball.
“One of my biggest goals was to make the Olympic team and there’s no better honor than to play for your country,” Parsons said. “This is a big step, and it’s an honor for me to be invited to this. I look forward to working hard and trying to make the team.”
For Walker, five summers ago he was a member of the USA Men’s U18 National Team that also returned home with a silver medal. Although that was five years ago, the 23-year-old still remembers his team’s loss in the gold medal game.
“We lost in the championship to Argentina,” Walker recalled. “I remember it. It was a great game, man. It was super competitive.
“The crowd was super intense. It was fun, but we lost. I still got MVP. I don’t know how. But that was probably one of the best (USA Basketball) memories that I’ve had.”
Jordan states that he also hasn’t erased the memory of his 2007 U19 team’s loss to Serbia.
“I was young,” he said. “Even though we lost, I thought it was a great experience just to have a chance to play for our country.”
As the returning crop of USA players have continued developing and seen their star status rise over the years, they all agree that each USA Basketball experience provides them the same passion.
“It makes you want to become just a better player, man,” Walker said. “When you’re around other great players and you see what those guys do, it makes you want to be a great player also. It’s a great feeling.”
Beal added, “It’s somewhat different, but it’s similar at the same time. It’s different because it’s the ultimate level. It’s the National Team, but at the same time, you’re playing for the same thing.”
The location of mini-camp is also something the returning players prefer over Colorado Springs, Colo.
“There’s no altitude,” Beal said, “so you have no worries about that.”
With the USA Basketball Showcase blue-white intra-squad game scheduled for tomorrow evening, the mini-camp practices undoubtedly served a meaningful purpose and provided both the new and returning USA players insight which they will carry back to their NBA teams for 2013-14 and beyond.
“It’s always a tough process when you’re always the best guy on your team, in high school, in middle school, AAU and things like that,” Jordan said. “Then you come together, and you may not be the best guy on the team. You may have to adjust. You may not be a go to scorer.
“You may have to be a picker. You may have to be a rebounder. You may have to be a decoy at times. But with this, you’re not playing for the Clippers, you’re not playing for the Warriors, you’re not playing for the Trail Blazers, you’re playing for your country, and I think that’s what really Coach K has embedded into our minds already.”