USA Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp Leaves A Big Impression
As the 51 players who took part in this weekend’s 2015 USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team October minicamp return to their various home cities throughout the country on Sunday night and Monday morning, they likely will spend some of their travel time mulling over the past 72 hours.
After arriving to the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Oct. 2, the 51 players were in the gym for twice-a-day training sessions on Saturday and Sunday. While each session began with drills to sharpen fundamentals such as footwork and form, sessions ended with highly competitive scrimmages.
The pace is something many of the players are familiar with, in fact, 45 of the players have participated in a USA Basketball training camp before, including Alex Reese (Pelham H.S./Pelham, Ala.), a 6-foot-10 center who attended the USA Men’s U16 National Team training camp this past June.
Unlike in June, when 12 players were named to the team that went on to win a gold medal at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship, no roster was selected following this minicamp.
“They’re evaluating us, but there is no pressure, really,” said Reese. “The competition is really good. Everybody is competing hard. It’s just fun.”
Reese said he will be thinking over his minicamp performance on his way home tomorrow and considering, “how I did and coming back next time.”
“I played pretty well, I guess,” Reese said. “I felt good about my hustle. I haven’t really shot a lot, so just getting loose balls and stuff like that.”
For six players, the minicamp was their first USA Basketball experience. That newness did not seem to slow them down, which is not surprising considering the minicamp feature the best players from the high school classes of 2016, 2017 and 2018.
“I think I transitioned into camp very well,” said 6-foot-6 forward D’Shawn Schwartz (Sand Creek H.S./Colorado Springs, Colo.), who not only is a USA Basketball rookie, but also is the first Colorado Springs player to take part in a USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team event. “I thought after the first couple of drills in the first session yesterday, I started to get a feel for things, and then I just started playing like nothing was new to me.”
Speaking on behalf of his fellow USA Basketball first-timers, Schwartz said, “Mentally, we felt like we belonged here, and we just went out and played.”
USA Basketball newcomer and 6-foot-9 forward Jonathan Isaac (IMG Academy/Naples, Fla.) said the experience matched up with his expectations.
“I expected a high level of competition, and that’s what it is,” Isaac said. “Strength is a big thing in my game, and I’m just seeing that I need more of that.”
For Isaac, the trip home will be spent thinking about his next moves.
“Just getting back to work,” said Isaac when asked what he is likely to be thinking while on his way home. “It is inspiring being here.”
Donning his first USA Basketball practice jersey over the past few days, 6-foot-8 foward Gerald Liddell (Byron P. Steele II H.S./Cibolo, Texas) said he has appreciated the chance to interact with players who have more experience than himself.
“It is good learning from the older guys, and it’s a very prestigious event, so that’s always good,” Liddell said. “The education that (USA Basketball) is giving us – they are really saying some good stuff about courage and working hard. That’s the gist of it.”
Liddell admitted that he feels he has plenty of hard work ahead of him after facing off against the best of best.
“That I’m not as good as I thought,” said Liddell when asked what he learned. “I always need to get better.”
Don’t expect that realization to slow him down, however. After all, these 51 players were invited because of their attitude and talent they already have shown in their young careers.
“I knew there were a lot of good guys here,” Liddell explained. “It’s helpful to see where you are at.”