USA Men’s Developmental Team Players Ready For Vigorous Training Camp
May 30, 2013 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
Twenty-three of the nation’s top 16-and-under male basketball players returned to Colorado Springs, Colo., Thursday, while seven others arrived for the first time. The reason they’re all united: training camp for the 2013-14 USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team which will be used to select the 12-man USA U16 National Team.
“It’s a great privilege to be here to represent the USA,” William Tennent High School’s (Pa.) Horace Spencer said. “I was here before, but now it’s more meaningful. Before it was just a camp, and now it’s a tryout to showcase your skills.”
The 30 athletes hail from 21 different states and each are attempting to earn a final roster spot to compete in the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship in Maldonado, Uruguay.
“Everyone is watching you,” Dominican High School’s (Wis.) Diamond Stone said. “You have to perform at a high level. You just have to go out here and try to work.”
Six-foot, four-inch, Jackson, Miss., native Malik Newman (Callaway H.S.) attended the USA Developmental National Team mini-camp in October and said he anticipates his comfort level to be greatly improved this time around.
“I have a couple of people I can communicate with,” Newman said. “Even if I didn’t know people, I should get to know them because they’re top players in the country, and I’m one of the top players in the country, and we’re fighting for the same thing.”
Stone, who also attended the mini-camp, acknowledged that nerves got the best of him during his first experience with USA Basketball.
“I was shy,” the 6’10” 254-pounder said. “I wasn’t talking a lot. This time, I’m going to try and be vocal and be a leader. I’m going to tell guys where to go and what to do.”
Simeon Career Academy’s D.J. Williams (Chicago, Ill.) is vying for a roster spot and is high school teammates with Kendrick Nunn and Jabari Parker, both members of the gold medal winning 2012 USA Men’s U17 World Championship Team. Williams said that before he departed Chicago, Parker provided him some advice
“Play hard and play my game,” Williams said of what Parker offered him. “Be comfortable and don’t be nervous.”
Unlike Newman, Spencer, Stone and Williams, T.J. Leaf of Foothills Christian H.S. (Lakeside, Calif.) is one of the seven athletes who are visiting the U.S. Olympic Training Center for the first time. Although he and the other participants are going to be heavily evaluated over the next few days, Leaf isn’t entering training camp feeling pressured. He plans to just play his game.
“I’m not one of those guys that just takes someone one-on-one every time,” Leaf said, “but I’m a good player that can play with guys.”
The players that participated in the mini-camp each said they exited with positive memories.
“It was real good,” Newman said looking back. “It was the top competition. All of the guys there were the top guys in their class.”
Williams added, “That was my first time being around a lot of kids that are as talented as me. So, it was a good experience.”
The returnees also revisited how much they enjoyed receiving guidance from Don Showalter, who coaches at Iowa City High School (Iowa), and who is returning for his third two-year stint as the USA Developmental National Team head coach.
“I learned how to be a leader, how to be vocal, how to carry a team” Stone said. “I learned how to be responsible on and off the court. I learned a lot of things from him.”
Twelve of these select 31 athletes will soon get the opportunity to play for Showalter and USA Basketball. As for which 12 players they will be, that’ll be determined on the hardwood.
“Whenever we can all come together and compete to fight for a spot, then you know it’s always going to be good competition,” Newman said. “Then once we come together and compete for the country, that’s even better.”