L.J. Goolsby Hopes To Lead USA To Win In 2016 Nike Hoop Summit
This past summer, L.J. Goolsby (KC Run GMC, Kansas) learned that his last taste of the Nike Hoop Summit would not be the 103-101 loss he was a part of as a USA assistant coach in 2015.
Not after he was selected to return in 2016 as head coach of the USA Basketball Junior National Select Team for the 19th annual Nike Hoop Summit that will be played at 12 p.m. PDT on Saturday, April 9 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon (live on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and the WatchESPN app).
The Nike Hoop Summit features the best U.S. high school senior boys taking on a World Select Team comprised of top international players from around the world who are 19 years old or younger.
“I was excited, obviously,” Goolsby said. “To get a chance to work with coach Flannery – we didn’t know what the roles would be – but just being a part of the Nike Hoop Summit is awesome. It’s such a great experience.”
Goolsby and 2016 U.S. assistant coach Eric Flannery (St. Edwards H.S., Ohio), who were in reversed roles in 2015, are looking to lead the USA to a win.
“We definitely are focused,” Goolsby said. “We want to win this game. After being 1-3 in the last four games, this is important to try and get this done and get back on the winning track,”
While each Nike Hoop Summit features brand new rosters for both the USA and World Select Team, Goolsby and Flannery have three players on the 2016 roster that they helped coach to gold medals as assistant coaches for USA Basketball at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship.
“I think it is a huge help that we know these players, especially with this particular group. I think coach Flannery and I are more familiar with this group than we were last year, because we have been with these guys longer. We are a lot more comfortable with these guys, just from a standpoint of knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are. So, we will try to play to their strengths. Hopefully it will make a difference.”
One lesson learned in 2015 has become a focus for 2016: start strong.
“It was a great game,” Goolsby said of the USA’s two-point loss in 2015. “But, we dug ourselves a hole early, so we are trying to emphasize that we need to come out of the gate and take care of business in the beginning. And hopefully not be in a hole like that this time.”
The USA will have just six practices together before stepping onto the court at the Moda Center on Saturday.
“We are mixing up the game plan a little bit,” Goolsby explained. “A lot of it is still similar (to last year). We feel like with our personnel and their versatility, we can utilize that quite a bit and try to pick up the pressure and make some things happen offensively as well.”
According to Goolsby, the USA’s advantages come from its athletic roster.
“Their versatility,” Goolsby said when asked about his team’s strengths. “There are guys who can play different positions. We can guard different positions, so that will give us the flexibility to play different line ups quite a bit. And our length is a huge difference this year versus last year, especially on the perimeter. “
The World Team will have four more practices than the USA, but that still leaves them just five days to prepare a team that arrived with no experience together. And because many of the players have not played in America, or against a U.S. team in international competition, it can be difficult to know what to expect out of the international team.
“They are able to shoot the basketball,” Goolsby said of the World Team. “They’ve got some skilled guys, and we are going to have to make sure we know where they are. A couple of their bigs can make some things happen. It will be interesting because a couple of pieces have changed in the last week, but we will be ready.”
Despite winning or losing, Goolsby takes to heart the chance to represent his country as a special opportunity.
“I’m truly honored,” Goolsby said. “I think the main thing for me personally is to be involved with USA Basketball, period. It’s very humbling. To be the head coach and the opportunity to work with coach Flannery again, regardless of if I’m the head coach or not, it is a tremendous experience. I’m looking forward to getting the chance to work with these guys for the rest of this week.”
Tickets for the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit are on sale now. Lower bowl seating starts at just $10, and courtside seats are $35 and $50. Service charges apply. Tickets are available at bit.ly/NHXtix the Rose Quarter Box Office or by calling 800-745-3000.