Xavier Munford Looking to Make the Most of World Cup Qualifying Opportunity
Making the USA national team was an unexpected but exciting development for the G League All-Star.
When Xavier Munford allowed his mind to wander toward the future while growing up in New Jersey, what he imagined usually involved playing basketball.
Like a lot of kids, he dreamed of being a professional athlete, scoring game-winning baskets and playing against some of the men he saw on his TV screen. He never really considered he might one day have the opportunity to represent his country playing for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team.
Munford, a 6-foot-4 combination guard, has twice before played for USA Basketball, and he’s back again for a third opportunity. He is one of seven players named to the USA Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team that will play road games versus Mexico and Cuba in the third and final first-round window.
“Throughout the years when I started watching and seeing guys play for the USA team and seeing different players and coaches in and out of the USA team, it has grown on me to want to represent my country,” Munford said. “When I first had the opportunity, I was excited and couldn’t say no.”
Munford also now knows the feeling of earning a gold medal in international play. He helped the U.S. to the championship last year at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup. The Americans finished 5-0 with Munford contributing 10.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
He also played in the first window of FIBA World Cup Qualifying in November, leading the national team in minutes per game at 25 and points per game with 13. He spent the winter and spring on a two-way contract with the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA and played in six games for the Bucks last season.
Munford took a few weeks off at the end of the season to recharge and is eager to play this summer for the team led by former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy. Munford and Van Gundy both were a part of the team in the November window, when the U.S. won games against Puerto Rico and Mexico.
“He can play either guard spot,” Van Gundy said of Munford. “He’s got natural scoring instincts. When you need his best, he plays his very best. So, you can count on him to compete in adverse situations.”
Munford said he and Van Gundy have a good relationship and the coach would occasionally text him during the NBA season to give him tips and suggestions and encouragement. He’s eager to get back to work.
“It’s always an accomplishment to be able to put that USA jersey on and go out and represent your country,” Munford said. “I’m just excited and looking forward to it, and I’ve been preparing for it. So, I’m ecstatic about the opportunity.”
Munford completed his college career at the University of Rhode Island in 2014, where he became the fastest player in school history to score 1,000 points. He went undrafted in the NBA but has spent time with four NBA teams as well as playing professionally in Spain. He is a two-time NBA G League All-Star.
Munford said he views his USA Basketball opportunity as a chance to work on his game against great competition and also to be around knowledgeable coaches like Van Gundy. He said his parents, Zamoraand Darren Munford, love seeing him playing for the U.S. and don’t miss a game.
He’s looking forward to seeing Cuba, a country that, until recently, was closed off to Americans. He said he would jump at the chance to represent his country again a year from now when it’s time for the FIBA World Cup.
“I’m just trying to be a complete player,” Munford said. “Respect the game defensively. A lot of people know that I can score the ball. That’s my strength. So, I just want to show that I can do a lot of other things, too. Set my teammates up, play hard on defense, rebound the ball as well and be a hard competitor, somebody that is out there on the floor and is going to help you win.”