Teammates Vying For USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team Roster
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Rising high school seniors at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman have proven they can win basketball games – three straight state championships in fact. Together at Bishop Gorman, Jeter and Zimmerman helped lead the Gaels to Nevada Division I state titles in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
With junior seasons in 2013-14 that saw their team finish 30-3 already months behind them, the duo are at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this week, competing to be one of 12 players named to the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team.
“I was definitely excited,” Jeter said of his U18 invitation. “I knew it was going to be a challenge coming in and being the youngest guy here. I am trying to take advantage of this opportunity and separate myself as a player and as a leader, communicate with my teammates and just be a leader on the floor.”
While Jeter brought with him previous experience from a USA Basketball mini-camp in October 2013, Zimmerman had participated in the 2012 USA Basketball Men’s U17 training camp.
“I was very excited,” Zimmerman said of his 2014 invitation. “I know what the program is about, and USA Basketball, in my opinion, is the biggest thing you can go to. It’s a great honor and a blessing to be a part of training camp.”
Jeter, a 6-foot-10 forward, and Zimmerman, a 6-foot-10 center, are two of 24 players vying for 12 positions on the 2014 USA Men’s U18 National Team, and most, if not all, of the players are familiar with one another. Jeter and Zimmerman, however, are the only set of high school teammates.
“It’s good to have another familiar face,” Jeter said. “I am familiar with a lot of these guys, but of course I see Stephen the most.”
With the reality that not every player can make the roster, training camp is very competitive. Not so competitive, however, that players lose sight of the value of sportsmanship.
“On the court, it’s really a business thing,” Zimmerman said. “We are all friends, so we try to keep it an upbeat mood. There is pressure to it, but we try to make it no pressure and just have fun.”
And though their schedule did not permit them to prepare together these past few weeks, both were training with one thing front and center on their minds – the elevation of Colorado Springs, which sits at more than 6,000 feet above sea level.
“Before I came here, I was doing a lot of training,” Zimmerman said. “The elevation is completely different, so I had to mentally prepare and physically prepare.”
“Conditioning,” Jeter added about his focus prior to camp. “The elevation will get to you quick, so I spent the past couple of weeks doing a great job of conditioning – getting in two-a-day workouts to prepare for this. I’ve been working hard.”
Having prepared for the elevation, Jeter and Zimmerman now are working to put on display for the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Committee, which will select the team, all of their best assets.
For Jeter, that starts with the things that often don’t show up on a box score.
“I played well last night in the first session,” Jeter said. “Today wasn’t my best performance, but I did a good job on the intangibles, communicating, being a leader, running the floor and just trying to take advantage of everything. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be here, and I want to take advantage of that.”
Zimmerman agreed that going hard was a key factor in having a successful training camp, but defense was what he wants to highlight.
“Being able to run is a big thing that I’ve been trying to show – that I work hard and how long I can play on defense, blocking shots and rebounding.”
Regardless of the outcome, Jeter and Zimmerman each said already they have accomplished important things just by taking part in USA Basketball training camps.
“I feel like over the year (since the October mini-camp), my biggest change was in my mindset and confidence,” Jeter said. “Knowing that I am one of the top guys, gave me confidence.”
Zimmerman pointed to the benefit of stiff competition.
“Playing with these great players at USA Basketball camps and being able to see where I match up with them has really helped my game,” Zimmerman said. “It showed me where I needed to be.”
And while they can point to positive outcomes even if they are not selected to the team, neither wants to settle for anything less.
“Making the team would be something special,” Jeter said. “I really feel like that would set me apart and help me prove myself and show that I have the work ethic, and the skill set and the mindset to really be great.”
“It would be amazing to make the team,” Zimmerman said. “My parents and my family are rooting for me. I’m going to try and do whatever I can to make the team.”
In less than 24 hours, all 24 players will find out which athletes will get to keep alive their dream of representing their country, and which will be forced to use the experience as a learning one.