Experience Strengthens USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team Training Camp Roster
Thirty-two of the nation’s best high school boys basketball players from throughout the country arrived on Thursday, May 28 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, for the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team training camp.
And while the ultimate goal of this weekend’s training camp is to name 12 players to the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team, every player in attendance also will have the opportunity improve his skills on the court and as a teammate, regardless of the outcome.
On the floor leading the 32 players through drills and scrimmages are the USA U16 coaching staff of head mentor Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa) and assistant coaches Miles Simon (California Supreme AAU) and Sharman White (Miller Grove H.S., Ga.), along with court coach Horace Neysmith (Atlanta Celtics, Ga.).
Improvement is something 6-foot-8 center Nazreon Reid (Asbury Park, N.J.) said he experienced this past October at the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team mini-camp, which also influenced his ensuing freshman year at Roselle Catholic High School.
“Definitely,” Reid said when asked if the two-day October camp made him a better player. “Because, my talent and skill level have gotten way higher since then.”
Following the inaugural FIBA Americas U16 Championship in 2009, USA Basketball created the USA Men’s Junior National Team, which includes a fluid pool of players that not only attend training camps to try out for national teams in June or July, they also take part in October mini-camps that are intended to help players get better and introduce them to the culture of USA Basketball.
One specific message resonated with Reid.
“To always help your teammates play at the same level as you,” Reid said when asked what he learned this past October. “Keep your teammates high, never bring them down and always have their back no matter what.”
Twenty-two of the players at this weekend’s training camp took part alongside Reid at the 2014 mini-camp. That means, of course, 10 did not. No matter, Reid said he is ready to help show the newest MJNT members how to raise the level of intensity to at least match the level of the previous camp, “or maybe higher.”
Two of those 10 newcomers to USA Basketball said they are ready to compete among the best competition in the country.
Charles O’Bannon Jr. (Bishop Gorman H.S./Las Vegas, Nev.) will don his first USA practice jersey, though he is following in the footsteps of his father, Charles, who won a gold medal with USA Basketball at the 1995 World University Games in Fukuoka, Japan, and a silver medal as a member of the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival West Team, as well as his uncle, Ed O’Bannon, who won gold in Buffalo, New York, as a member of the 1993 USA World University Games Team and gold at the first FIBA Americas U18 Championship in 1990.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who have played, teammates, talked to some coaches,” O’Bannon said. “I know a little bit of what to expect.”
Though O’Bannon clearly stated his goal was to, “make this team,” he also appreciated it as a special event in his young basketball career.
“I want to give everything I have,” O’Bannon said. “Go all out and just be thankful for this experience, because it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
With one session under his belt, USA Basketball rookie Elijah Hardy (Bishop O’Dowd H.S./Oakland, Calif.) said he quickly is getting into the groove.
“It was very competitive,” Hardy said. “We all played hard. It was a great environment. I felt pretty good. I thought people were being unselfish with the ball. I felt that my teammates had good attitudes the whole time. But, yeah, I feel good after the first practice.
“The people that make the team play hard all the time; that is what I learned,” Hardy added. “I just want to come out as the best point guard in camp.”
The selected team members will play in the 2015 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, which will feature eight national teams from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean, from June 10-15 in Bahia Blanca, Argentina.
It is the fourth edition of an event that has seen the USA capture all three gold medals and a 15-0 record. Though the roster is still to be determined, the journey to defend the USA’s gold medal already has begun.