USA Basketball Newcomers Hoping for a Trip to Brazil
It’s not easy being the new kid on the block. Moving in the middle of the school year, having to quickly pick up what seems to be common knowledge for everyone else is not always easy. However, for two rising high school sophomores, fitting in hasn’t been an issue at the USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team training camp, from which the 2019 USA U16 National Team will be selected.
Gradey Dick, a 6-foot-5 guard from Wichita, Kansas, and 6-foot-4 guard Cam Heide, who hails from Wayzata, Minnesota, got their first taste of USA Junior National Team competition this week in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“I was a little nervous, the butterflies were there, but once I got going, once the ball tipped off, it was just another normal game,” said Dick.
“I was a little nervous, because my inexperience with the camps and stuff,” echoed Heide. “Everybody knew all the drills that we were doing right away. So, I had to sit back behind a couple guys. Max Christie, who’s been here both times, did a great job. He kind of pulled me aside and showed me what to do, what to expect and helped me through each drill.”
Of the 30 athletes who tipped-off training May 22, 26 had previous USA Basketball experience due to the significant expansion of the USA Men’s Junior National Team program, which features six camps and competitions throughout the 2018-19 year.
Nevertheless, both 15-year-olds asked for advice, listened to the coaches and caught onto the system quickly enough to be among the 18 finalists named on May 25. Among the 18 finalists, 12 had two prior USA camps under their belts, four had participated in one camp and Dick and Heide were the two remaining newcomers.
Before traveling to Florida, Heide reached out to a couple of USA gold medalists, Matthew Hurt and Jalen Suggs, for advice on what to expect.
“They said that the biggest thing is just to compete, play defense, have fun, enjoy everything and enjoy the experience,” said Heide. “They also told me that it’s an opportunity to go and learn, so you have to just go there, play defense and play your heart out every single time.”
Dick also sought advice, but from a different source. He plays in the summer for KC Run GMC and has the benefit of picking the brain of a KC Run GMC coach, L.J. Goolsby, who has coached six times for USA Basketball – three times in international competition and at three minicamps.
Goolsby, who was an assistant for the 2013 USA U16 and 2014 USA U17 World Cup teams that compiled a 12-0 mark and collected a pair of golds, told Dick, “play hard, play well and just play how you play.”
So far, they’ve both been following the advice and are elated to have made it to the final 18.
“I was very thankful,” said Dick about hearing the good news. “Just the fact that I got invited to this, I was very thankful. And then I got invited to stay for this weekend, so I’m still trying to get this into my head.”
The fact that one third of the athletes who remain at camp will not be traveling to Brazil to help the USA defend its title at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship is not lost on either of them.
“Start hitting shots and play better defense, for sure,” responded Heide when asked what he needs to do to make the final cut. “The whole thing has been new to me; the entire experience has been very new. But, hearing my name called this morning is another reason to work hard and keep going.”
Dick felt the same way. “I need to come in and stay confident in my shot, because coaches are looking at me for that,” said Dick, who hit seven 3s in his final game of the 2018-19 high school season. “They told me they needed me to be a shooter. And then versatility is good, so I can come off the screens. I really need to stay confident in my shot and keep hitting my 3s.”
Whatever happens, they will leave the camp with a little more experience playing at the highest level in the country within their age group. And are among 18 of the best 16-and-unders in the nation.
“If I had the opportunity to play for the USA, that would be amazing,” added Dick. “The opportunity to come here was a blessing. So, if I had the opportunity to make it, I would give it my all there. Nothing less.”
After the official team is announced the morning of May 27, the 12 players will have seven more practices in Florida and four more in Bélem, Brazil, prior to tipping-off against Argentina on June 3. Fans in the USA will be able to watch the USA squad online at FIBA.com.