Internationally Seasoned Duo Hoping A Trip to Argentina Is In Their Travel Plans
At a quick glance, they are just two of the guys. That is, two of the 32 athletes at the 2017 USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team training camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The duo are competing for roster spots as part of the 12-member 2017 USA Men’s U16 National Team, which will go for a fifth-consecutive gold medal in U16 competition at the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship June 14-18 in Formosa, Argentina.
The two are Lynn Greer III (Roman Catholic H.S./Philadelphia, Pa.) and Nico Mannion (Pinnacle H.S./Scottsdale, Ariz.). Greer is just 15 years old, while Mannion is 16, but both are back with USA Basketball for their first training camp after participating in last October’s Junior National Team minicamp.
Greer and Mannion share interesting journeys, though, having traveled the globe as children while their professional basketball-playing fathers enjoyed successful careers abroad.
“It started off in Turkey,” Greer explained. “Then Greece, and then back to Turkey. We’ve been to Russia, Ukraine, Spain, Italy. I lived in all these places for 12 years.”
In Lynn Greer II’s standout career at Temple University from 1997-2002, he became the Owls second leading all-time scorer. Undrafted in 2002, Greer continued a 13-year professional playing career both domestically and abroad. He was the EuroLeague’s top scorer in 2004 and the Lega Basket Serie A (Italy) MVP in 2006.
When asked about his favorite place he’s lived, Greer answered without hesitation.
“Milan was the best. I was there a year. It was very nice there,” he said, noting 2011 was the year, while his father played for Olimpia Milano.
Before his career overseas, Greer won a bronze medal with USA Basketball in Beijing, playing with the 2001 USA World University Games Team, and he also competed at the 2005 FIBA Amiercas Championship and helped the USA qualify for the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
LaMarr Greer, Lynn III's uncle who also played across Europe for more than a decade, won a bronze medal as well, but back in 1995 with the U.S. Olympic Festival South Team.
The youngest Greer hooper had no idea.
“My uncle has one? Wow. I didn’t know that,” Greer said, denying any bragging rights if he were to continue the gold medal-streak with the USA U16 team this summer, which is 20-0 in FIBA Americas U16 Championships since the inaugural competition in 2009.
“Honestly, I’ll just be grateful to make the team,” Greer said. “That’s the goal coming here – to make the team. I wouldn’t brag or anything to them. I’ll just be grateful.”
That’s part of the message he received from his father and uncle prior to traveling to Colorado Springs.
“They told me to do the little things – talk on defense, talk to your teammates, thank the coaches at all times. I always thank the coaches, because without them, I wouldn’t be here.”
On Mannion’s side, the tale is only slightly different. Born in Sienna, Italy, Nico holds dual citizenship. His mother, Gaia, is a former Italian professional volleyball player, and his father, Pace, hooped in the NBA for six seasons from 1983-89 before a 13-year pro career in Italy.
Nico, who’s full name is Niccolo, lived in Sienna for nearly two years, a city he honestly can’t remember much of. Up until the age of 14, he crossed the pond to Italy every summer to visit his mother’s side of the family, but his growing basketball prowess hasn’t allowed for the time these past two summers.
“When I go over there, I take the whole month off from ball, just to get away from it. And, gain a little weight from eating pasta,” said the 6-foot, 160-pound Mannion.
The Italian beaches are his favorite, he says, and his time back home offers time to brush up on the language.
“I’m fluent, actually,” he said, before proving it. “My name is Nico and I was born in Italy,” he said in Italian, ever so nonchalantly.
Mannion was fond of the travel growing up, living the life of a pro baller’s son. He wasn’t a prodigy then, but he remembers where much of it began.
“When we moved back to the states, my dad retired and he started doing broadcasting with the Utah Jazz,” Mannion explained.
“We used to go to all of the games, and we’d get there two or three hours early when the players would just be warming up and shooting around. I’d get to go sit on the bench and just watch and learn from the players, and I’d pick their brains. That’s where I fell in love with the game.”
Not in Sienna or Cantù, Italy, or even Milwaukee, Detroit or Atlanta. No, Nico’s love for basketball began in Salt Lake City – the birthplace of his father.
After averaging 20.2 points per game en route to being named Arizona’s 2017 Freshman of the Year, Mannion is ready for whatever, or rather, wherever, he should go next.
Greer, standing nearby, had a more definitive answer for his next travel destination.
“I want to go to Argentina, man!”
Practice sessions for the USA Men’s U16 National Team training camp continue June 3, at 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. and 4:30-7 p.m., with finalists for the team expected to be announced the evening of June 3. Selected athletes will remain in Colorado Springs and will train twice a day through June 9.
The USA tips off 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship play on Wednesday, June 14, against Puerto Rico, before playing the Dominican Republic on June 15 and rounding out Group B play against Mexico on June 16. The top four finishing teams, not including Argentina, who automatically qualifies as the U17 host country, will qualify for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup for Men.