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USA Basketball’s Junior National Team Mini-Camp A Slam Dunk

  • Author:
    Katherine Keel
  • Date:
    Oct 7, 2014

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Day 2 Photo Gallery

• VIDEO: Mini-Camp Highlights

To show off, or not to show off? Should I feed passes, or take more shots myself? Is it the right time to pull a reverse dunk and show some flair, or play it classic with an easy lay-up?

These questions dominated the minds of our nation’s elite high school players this past weekend, as they took part in the sixth annual USA Basketball’s Men’s Junior National Team mini-camp at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. This camp is a classic time to for players to showcase their skills; however, teamwork is valued at the top of the list as well, so it’s a fine line to walk.

Consisting of 53 of the nation’s top high school players, this annual event garners top national talent for an intensive, two-day camp chock-full of drills, scrimmages and overall skill work.

According to Craig Miller, Chief Communications Officer of USA Basketball,  “This event is used mostly as a ‘feeder’ of sorts. This camp serves as a time to learn the kids’ personalities and let them show off their skills. This spring, USA Basketball will invite a group back to try out for the U16 National Team.”

Player evaluations throughout camp help determine the pool of athletes who will be invited back in the spring. From that group, the roster for numerous international competitions the next two years will be selected. USA roster spots for high-level competitions such as the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit, 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championships, 2016 FIBA U17 World Championships and the 2016 FIBA American U18 Championships are on the line, so it is important for each player to make a positive impression.  

For most high school players, this was their first major opportunity in the sport of basketball. They have now become part of the “elite,” and the door is wide open for future opportunities, whether it involves traveling internationally or playing ball at a top-ranked college.

“You have to come out to every camp and give it everything you’ve got,” said high school senior Stephen Zimmerman (Bishop Gorman H.S./Las Vegas, NV). “Come out ready to work and to show up -- or else, you’ll be passed up.”  

Zimmerman is no stranger to success, as he recently won gold at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship this past summer as a part of the USA U18 National Team, a victory that qualified the USA for next summer’s FIBA U19 World Championships that will be held in Crete.

This was Zimmerman’s third national team camp and he now has taken the role of a mentor to the younger kids.

Of the mini-camp’s original 53 invitees, 14 had previous experience within USA Basketball. Now that the Junior National Team program spans across multiple age groups, the younger, less experienced players can learn from their peers who have been involved in USA Basketball before.

“Having the older kids here to mentor the younger ones has really made an impact,” said BJ Johnson, USA Basketball’s Assistant Men’s National Team Director. “I’d almost say that they have more impact on the younger players than we do as coaches.”

The USA coaching staff is highly decorated as well, with Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S./Iowa City, Iowa) leading the helm as head coach. Showalter has a long history in the sport of basketball, as he is about to begin his 41st year of coaching.

Throughout his successful career, Showalter has made a lasting impact on both the kids and the USA Basketball Junior National Team program as a whole. He’s led the U16 World Championship team to victory in 2009, 2011 and 2013. His USA U17 squads have claimed World Championship gold in 2010, 2012 and 2014. The program has been so successful that the organization now has kids calling and knocking on their door to have an opportunity to play. 

Though retired, Showalter splits his time between USA Basketball commitments and coaching the Iowa City High School basketball team during the fall and winter. He still loves the game and can’t seem to step away.

“Moving forward, I want the program to continue going in this direction. This camp gives players a small glimpse of what’s to come when you play at the elite level. Some kids are ready for it -- others, not so much. But it’s still great experience for them to play amongst the best of the best,” Showalter said.

Players echoed his statements, sharing in Showalter’s desire for involvement in the program.

“I’d love as many kids as possible to get involved in basketball, because it has been an unforgettable experience for me. I feel so blessed whenever I wear my USA jersey and I’ve learned so much from the USA Basketball coaches and my teammates, ” Zimmerman said. 

A group of players will be invited back in the spring, from which selections for the USA U16 National Team will be made. Stay tuned to for future updates. 

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