Nike Hoop Summit Features USA Against the World in High School Showcase
On April 12, basketball fans get a chance to peer into the future of USA Basketball, the NCAA and the NBA, witnessing future freshman sensations and top draft picks while they are still playing in high school.
The 22nd annual Nike Hoop Summit will match the USA Nike Hoop Summit Team — featuring the top high school senior boys in the country — against a World Select Team of 19-and-under players at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.
The game, played since 1995, has featured an amazing 217 players drafted by NBA teams, including 14 in the 2018 NBA Draft alone. It is a game where players are discovered.
The inaugural game featured the likes of future NBA stars Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury for the U.S., and the future stars kept coming after that.
“I remember vividly my first involvement when I coached the game in 1998,” said Don Showalter, director of coach development for USA Basketball. “There was a player who was kind of under the radar for the international team that no one knew about by the name of Dirk Nowitzki. He had 30-some points and 20-some rebounds against us.
“He was a phenom at the U19 level. I like to say we brought him into his own,” Showalter joked. “Luis Scola also played for that team. Rashard Lewis was our best player. Dana Fife, now the assistant coach for Michigan State, was also on our team, so we had some good players.”
Showalter has been helping with the selection of the USA team ever since.
The U.S. leads the series 14-7, but the series is 5-5 since 2009 with the World Select Team winning 89-76 last year.
As of last November, a remarkable 118 Nike Hoop Summit alumni were active in the NBA, including 80 players from USA Basketball. The last nine No. 1 overall picks in the NBA Draft (and 12 overall) are Nike Hoop Summit alumni, including Deandre Ayton in 2018, Markelle Fultz in 2017, Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015, Anthony Davis in 2012, Kyrie Irving in 2011 and John Wall in 2010.
The participating players are so highly regarded that the game has produced the first three NBA Draft picks three times, including 2014 (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid), 2012 (Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal) and 2008 (Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo), and 76 players have been top-10 picks.
Another 34 alumni — including 21 U.S. players — currently compete on the collegiate level.
The 2019 USA Junior National Select Team is being coached by Scott Fitch, head coach of Fairport High School in New York, and Stan Waterman, head coach at Sanford School in Delaware. Fitch is the designated head coach.
“We don’t really have a head coach and assistant coach, but we must designate one as the head coach,” Showalter explained. “They both take over certain aspects of the game, and they both work really well together.”
Fitch and Waterman served as Showalter’s assistants the past two years when the U.S. won the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup.
“Scott and Stan know a lot of the kids on the team from coaching them the last two years,” Showalter said.
Fitch is excited to be part of the annual showcase.
“Any time you have the chance to represent your country, it’s an amazing opportunity,” Fitch said of the challenge. “The fact that I’ve been connected with some of these kids the last two years on our USA U16 and U17 teams is important. I’ve grown to like them not only as basketball players, but as people.”
Showalter said the game showcases not just the American players, but the international players coming into their own. It ends up being a valuable recruiting tool for colleges and the NBA thanks to the player talent identification process.
Roy Rana, a Canadian and the head coach of the Ryerson University (Toronto) men’s team, is leading the World Select Team for a ninth straight year, with last year’s victory moving his all-time record to 4-4.
“I’m just trying to coach my teams,” he said. “Our style is that what we do on court is more about who we are, and not fixated on what the U.S. is doing. Our players are a reflection of global talent in the age group, and usually come from every continent.”
Rana said his best feeling each year comes from getting to know the players he’s coaching.
But, it is also a matchup of the best against the best, and the world gets to see them before they become prime time players.
“I think it’s important to see that competition to find out where everyone is at in basketball around the world,” Showalter said. “I think it’s been a really good game, very valuable in a lot of aspects. We find out what we can do differently to enhance our game. Nike’s been behind us 100 percent helping us to promote it.”
He and Samson Kayode, USA Basketball’s assistant director for the Men’s National Team, evaluate year-round, so the players they bring in for the U16 and U17 training camps make selection and cuts difficult.
“It’s a continuing saga of trying to identify players and figure out if they really fit with what we want from our team,” Showalter said. “We have to build a team. Our game is a different kind of game than the McDonald’s (All-American) Game or the Jordan (Brand Classic). We want to develop a team rather than play an all-star game.
“The Nike Hoop Summit has become for us a game where we really try to put a lot of resources into getting the best players as a team, and we want to come out on top knowing that the international team is going to be well coached and truly represents a lot of countries, not just one.”