Ivan Rabb Competing with a New Purpose On USA AmeriCup Qualifying Team
Rabb is working hard to get back to the NBA while also competing with USA Basketball.
A little more than a month ago, Ivan Rabb’s young professional basketball career took a hit
The 6-foot-10 forward, who spent his first two pro seasons in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, was now in the G League with the Westchester Knicks on a two-way contract, meaning he could be called up by the NBA’s New York Knicks at any time. But, Rabb lost that two-way status in mid-January when New York waived him in order to sign G League teammate Kenny Wooten to that spot.
Suddenly, in midseason, Rabb’s career was in limbo.
“I had to look in the mirror and realize that it wasn't them, what they were doing, it was what I was doing. I know what I'm capable of and have shown glimpses of that,” the 23-year-old said from the USA AmeriCup Qualifying Team training camp. “Now, it's time to put in more work and manage my time a lot better and be more consistent.”
Now, Rabb has a chance on a new stage. After signing back with Westchester, Rabb was one of 12 players — all but one from the G League — selected to represent USA Basketball in the two AmeriCup games against Puerto Rico. It is the first step for the U.S. in the qualification process for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
After training camp in Miami, the U.S. travels to San Juan to face Puerto Rico on Feb. 20, before the two teams square off in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 23 (for ticket information visit USAB.com/ACQ), in the first of three AmeriCup Qualifying competition windows. Also in the U.S. group is Mexico and the Bahamas.
Rabb has prior experience with USA Basketball, having won gold medals at the 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2014 FIBA U17 World Cup, while also playing for the 2015 USA Junior National Select Team in the Nike Hoop Summit.
“I feel like (playing for USA Basketball now) means more to me, understanding that as I got older and more mature, what it really means,” Rabb said. “I'm just excited for the opportunity to grow with the guys on the team.”
With 85 games of NBA regular season experience, including 18 starts, with the Grizzlies, Rabb’s 2019-20 season took its first dramatic turn when Memphis released him at the end of training camp. He latched on with the Knicks on a two-way contract just before the season started and is currently averaging 15.5 points, a league fourth-best 11.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in the G League.
“I feel like I just have a lot to learn,” said Rabb, who averaged 5.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 14.6 minutes during his two seasons with the Grizzlies after being drafted in the second round
out of after following two highly productive seasons at the University of California, Berkeley. “I feel like I've done a lot of learning the last month and a half, two months. Learned a lot about myself when things really got dark for me, and I just realized the most important things in my life are my family and basketball.”
He said the experience of being waived made him evaluate how he was handling his career.
“For me, I just had to learn to use my time wisely,” Rabb said. “I wake up earlier and put work in, go ahead and go to practice and stay after practice. It's stuff like that. And getting in better shape. It's been paying off since I came back.”
Being on the USA AmeriCup team should help Rabb. The team has to be very focused as it only has five practices and a scrimmage before facing Puerto Rico.
“It's definitely a challenge,” said Rabb, noting his teammates seem to have a high basketball IQ. “Getting together on that court so we can realize everybody's strengths and weaknesses, so that we can play off each other and win. It's going to be tough.”
Rabb also is noticing how much attention is being paid to the little things by the coaching staff, led by veteran NBA coach Mike Fratello.
“I learned a lot about the small details,” Rabb said. “(Fratello is) very keyed in on the small details, and he understands that for us to win, we have to really pay attention to those things in order to do the big thing, which is to win the two games.”
Even with this group coming together for just a short time, Rabb said there is a sense of urgency that goes along with qualifying for the Olympics.
“We understand what we're getting into and that's why we're going to come in and just work every day, so that we can handle our business,” Rabb said.