Ultimate Honor At Stake For 21 Players At USA Men’s U19 Training Camp
The 21 players taking part this weekend in training camp for the 2015 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Championship Team arrived on Saturday (June 13) from throughout the country to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, each with hopes of representing the USA at the FIBA U19 World Championship.
Only twelve will get to do so.
Among the 21 athletes are 10 players who completed their freshman year of college this past season, six players who wrapped up high school careers and eight players who will be high school seniors next fall.
Nine players have won at least one gold medal with USA Basketball, others have participated in previous USA Basketball training camps and some are taking part in their first USA Basketball experience.
All are hoping to hear their name called when finalists for the team are announced on June 15.
Though returning gold medalist Isaiah Briscoe (Roselle Catholic H.S./Union, N.J.) admitted he is glad training camp will help him continue to move past a 103-101 loss he experienced with USA Basketball this past April in the Nike Hoop Summit, he also admitted that every chance that he has to compete with USA Basketball is important.
“It was a great experience,” Briscoe said of the Nike Hoop Summit, which saw him dish out nine assists. “I was blessed enough to be selected to represent my country.
“Coming back here, I love being here,” he continued. “I love training and competing. Most of all, I just love to represent the USA.”
Training camp also is the beginning of Briscoe’s chance to finish what he started as a member of the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team that won a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship and qualified the USA for this summer’s U19 worlds. Two of his 2014 USA U18 teammates, Jalen Brunson (Stevenson H.S./Licolnshire, Ill.) and Allonzo Trier (Findlay Prep, Nev./Seattle, Wash.), are in training camp as well.
Perhaps Briscoe’s most powerful motivation, however, was a mission given to him by friend and 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship gold medalist Justise Winslow.
“I was just talking to Justise Winslow before I left, and he was saying how it was harder to win a world championship than it is to win a FIBA Americas championship,” Briscoe said. “He gave me a task, he said, ‘Really try and go out there and win it.’ So, I’m going to get in here, I’m going to go hard and I really want to win a gold medal.”
UCLA’s 7-foot sophomore center Thomas Welsh (Redondo Beach, Calif.) also was in training camp for the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team last summer, but he was not among those chosen to the 12-member roster.
“I think definitely, yeah,” Welsh said if missing the cut motivated him. “I’m just going to be pushing myself every day out here and doing my best to try and make the team.
“I learned a lot,” Welsh added of his first USA Basketball experience. “There are a couple of guys coming back from that team, too. There are a lot of great players that are here. It is going to be really competitive.”
After playing a season of NCAA basketball with UCLA, including reaching the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Welsh said he is not the same player he was in 2014.
“I think I’m just better all around,” Welsh explained. “I’ve been working hard trying to get better in every day, every day.
“I learned so much,” he added about his freshman year. “Adjusting to the speed of the game was big for me over the season.”
Welsh also agreed that his college experience is an asset that he will try to make work in his favor.
“You have more experience in the game,” Welsh said of the college players. “You’ve experienced it at the college level. So, I’m going to come out here and play like a college player, play like I do and hopefully have a good time, play hard with these guys.”
Virginia Tech’s Justin Bibbs (Dayton, Ohio), who averaged 11.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game in his freshman year, similarly is hoping that his college experience will help him to have confidence in his first USA Basketball experience.
“It’s exciting and an honor to be here with all these great players and great coaches,” said Bibbs, who has been going above and beyond his normal work outs since receiving his invitation to trials.
“I’m focused on being relaxed and doing what I do best,” Bibbs explained. “This is my first time being in this type of environment, so I’m going to try to be relaxed.
“Just go hard,” said Bibbs when asked what he is focusing on. “Don’t try to think about impressing anybody, just play your game.”
What Bibbs hopes to show the selection committee is that he can benefit this USA team in multiple ways.
“Just my versatility,” he said. “I can play defense. I can do the little things, rebound, score in different ways.”
Undoubtedly, Bibbs, Briscoe and Welsh will not be alone in their determination to give their best effort at training camp as all 21 players fight for their chance to wear red, white and blue.
“It would mean a lot,” Welsh said. “Being able to represent your country is unbelievable to even think about, so I’m excited to be out here for this opportunity, and I’m going to give it everything I got.”