USA Men’s National Team Continues Preparation in Canary Islands
Gran Canaria, Spain
With the newly-minted 12-member USA roster intact and a game against Slovenia slated for tomorrow, the 2014 USA Men’s National Team went through a full two-hour practice Monday, which was followed by a session with media from across Europe.
With four exhibition games and several travel days mixed in with the team's training schedule, a full practice has been a rarity for USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff. In fact, since reassembling in Chicago on Aug. 14, the group has had just five full practices, including today's session.
But if there ever was a coach prepared to handle the short training window, it's veteran USA mentor Krzyzewski.
Coach K is serving as head coach of his fourth USA World Cup Team, a feat unparalleled by a USA coach. Hal Fischer is the only other USA coach to lead multiple U.S. teams in World Championship action, having coached the 1967 and 1970 squads. Krzyzewski led the 1990 USA team of collegians to a bronze medal and 7-2 record, and his squad earned a second bronze medal in 2006 and compiled an 8-1 record. The USA with Kyzyzewski at the helm went 9-0 to capture gold in 2010. All-told, USA World Cup teams with Coach K at the helm are a remarkable 24-3.
"We want to start putting our entire system in now that we have 12 guys,” said Krzyzewski. “Roles can now be easier defined especially for (players) nine through twelve."
Krzyzewski faced a similar task in preparing his team for the 2010 World Championship. Without a single member of the 2008 Olympic gold medal team listed on his roster, the strength of the USA Basketball National Team program that USA managing director Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski had developed was proven at the 2010 Worlds in Istanbul, Turkey. The Americans finished 9-0 to capture the USA’s first gold medal at the event since 1994.
"We are excited about being in Gran Canaria for this exhibition here, and these few days helps us get acclimated to playing in Europe. We are down to twelve guys right now, so we are excited to play this one exhibition and then head off to Spain and start the Word Cup," said Krzyzewski following tody's practice.
While Krzyzewski's and Colangelo's experiences at the 2006 and 2010 World Championships, as well as at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, ensure they are a duo familiar with international competition and the preparation challenges, the U.S. also will look to rely on the previous experiences of several team members.
"I’ve been here before: Rudy (Gay), Derrick (Rose) and I were on the (2010) World Championship team," statedStephen Curry. "The three of us have experience and we understand what the job is and how hard it is, but we are very focused, working very hard."
Adding additional international experience for the USA are 2012 Olympic gold medalists James Harden and Anthony Davis.
"Now it’s a matter of guys just finding their roles, finding their niches and things that they can contribute to help the team out. So, over these next couple of practices and games, hopefully we will figure that out," added Harden.
The last time the American National Team suffered a loss in an international competition was at the 2006 World Championship in Japan when Greece surprised the U.S. in the semifinals. Since then, Colangelo and Krzyzewski have led the USA National Team to 53 consecutive wins. That win streak has been accomplished through focus, playing team basketball, and outstanding preparation for each opponent.
"This team has worked harder in our practices than any other USA National Team I've coached. We will continue to work hard, and we will put more things in as we go along. I can promise that as a team, we will respect each and every team we face," Krzyzewski stated.
"Hopefully we will be able to give a good account of ourselves."
TEAM NOTES: The USA-Slovenia exhibition game will be broadcast live (2 p.m. EDT) on ESPN2 … Traveling with the USA Basketball team to Spain and sitting in on the USA's practice Monday were two USA Basketball and NBA legends – Clyde Drexler and Dominique Wilkins ... Drexler was a member of the "Dream Team" that won Olympic gold in Barcelona in 1992, while Wilkins was a member of the gold medal winning 1994 USA World Championship Team that finished 8-0 to claim the gold medal … Tickets to the USA-Slovenia exhibition game sold out in under two hours … The site of Tuesday's USA's exhibition match versus Slovenia is Gran Canaria. Gran Canaria is the second most populous island of the Canary Islands. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, Gran Canaria is located approximately 125 miles away from the north coast of Africa … Gran Canaria will also host one of the four preliminary round groups for the FIBA World Cup. Group D preliminary round games in Gran Canaria will feature Angola, Australia, Lithuania, Mexico, Slovenia and South Korea.