Talented Group Of Stars Arrive in Las Vegas For Start Of USA Basketball Men's National Team Mini-Camp
July 21, 2013 • Las Vegas, Nevada
Twenty-six of the NBA’s top rising stars and two of the nation’s best collegiate prospects arrived in Las Vegas Sunday evening for the start of the 2013 USA Men’s National Team mini-camp.
The players gathered in the evening for an introduction team meeting, which was highlighted by remarks from USA Men’s National Team Director Sean Ford, USA managing director Jerry Colangelo and USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"We’re unbelievably excited about the start of camp and I’m extremely excited to be coaching the United States team again for the next four years; the last seven years have been incredible,” Krzyzewski said last month. “This mini-camp is going to be very exciting because we bring 25 to 30 of the top young NBA players together and we start to replenish the pool of players that we will use for the World Cup in Madrid next summer and then in Rio for the 2016 Olympics.”
The group will participate in their first of three practices Monday at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. Eight of the players– DeMarcus Cousins, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick Favors, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson, were all members of the 2012 USA Basketball Select Team that trained last summer against the U.S. Olympic Team during its July pre-Olympic training camp in Las Vegas. For Favors, last summer’s experience provided him a newfound focus.
“I think I grew a lot mentally,” the Utah Jazz forward said, “the way I approach the game, the way I get ready, the way I prepare myself, my body, everything.”
Besides the eight players who return from last summer’s Select Team, the mini-camp roster features a total of 22 players who have previous USA Basketball experience. That statistic alone is something Colangelo highly values.
“If you look at the successful franchises in all sports, the continuity that I’m referring to starts at the top in terms of management and coaching, and we have that,” Colangelo said. “We have the infrastructure in place, so it’s a matter of filling in the players. We have a wealth of players who have all indicated they want to be a part of it.”
The player with the most NBA experience at the mini-camp happens to be Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley. At just the age of 25, being the eldest isn’t something Conley is familiar with. He states, however, that he will embrace his unique role this week.
“I’m the old vet now,” Conley said with a laugh. “It feels weird at (age) 25. It’s real hard to believe that I’m the oldest guy, so I’m going to tell all these young guys to take it easy on me. Take it easy on the old man.”
In May, the six-year NBA floor general, Conley, led Memphis to its first ever Western Conference Finals. Having received the mini-camp invitation shortly after the Grizzlies’ magical run came to an end, Conley said that representing his country on the hardwood was always one of his goals growing up.
“Basketball is a big deal, especially USA Basketball globally,” Conley said. “So that’s a huge honor to be a part of it.”
One element that Conley and Favors both agree upon is their excitement in being able to receive instruction from Krzyzewski.
“It’s going to be fun,” Favors said. “He’s led Duke to a lot of championships. He’s a legendary coach in college, so it’s going to be a great experience learning from him.”
Conley added, “I haven’t heard much about playing for him, but obviously he’s a great coach and a great guy and great person. I’m just going to try and pick his brain as much as possible.”
The camp’s two collegiate players are 2013 consensus Freshman of the Year Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State University and two-time All-American Doug McDermott of Creighton University. Both players come to mini-camp already having been members of USA Basketball team’s earlier this summer. Smart helped lead the USA Men’s U19 World Championship Team to a gold medal in Prague while McDermott was the leading scorer of the USA Men’s World University Games Team.
“If you’re competitive at all, and you have the opportunity to play up like that, that’s fantastic,” Colangelo said of the collegiate duo. “That’s like going to grad school. I’m sure they’re excited about it.”
The mini-camp doesn’t just feature a few new players, but it also includes a pair of new coaches. Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls and Monty Williams of the New Orleans Pelicans will join returning assistant Jim Boeheim (Syracuse University) to complete Krzyzewski’s staff.
“Part of our week this week is getting them assimilated to our structure and our culture,” Colangelo said of Thibodeau and Williams. “They’re great guys and are going to bring some new ideas and a new vision to what we’re doing. We’re excited about having them with us, and I know they’re excited about being part of it.”
The invited players will conduct daily training sessions July 22-24 (12:00-2:00 p.m. PDT) and will close out the mini-camp with the 2013 USA Basketball Showcase, a blue-white intra-squad game on Thursday, July 25, 6 p.m. (PDT) at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV.
“I think the fan event (USA Basketball Showcase on July 25) this summer is going to be even more exciting because we’re going to have more players,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re going to try to make the game a little bit longer and we may do some innovative things because of the number of players playing. Just watch, I think it will be the best one that we’ve done thus far.”
All USA practices will take place at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center and are closed to the general public.
Tickets for the 2013 USA Basketball Showcase on July 25 start at $10 and can be purchased by calling 702-739-FANS or at www.UNLVtickets.com.