Day One of First USA Basketball E-National Team Trials in the Books
Featuring 30 of the top basketball 2K gamers in the country, including a late addition of Steez (Alexander Bernstein/76ers GC), who replaced Hotshot (Juan Gonzalez/Heat Check Gaming), the first day of the inaugural USA Basketball E-National Team trials were competitive and a success.
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“We all have very similar personalities,” said Freedom team member Crush (Rafel Davis/Kings Guard Gaming). “FEAST is a very humble guy, Steez is a very humble guy, JBM is a humble guy and we had Ziah, and she’s always willing to learn. So, today was really easy. We meshed together very well. We listened to each other, talked to each other, communicated and everybody was just trying to learn from each other and get better.”
“I think that’s really the best part about this,” added Radiant (Ethan White/76ers GC), whose Stripes team at 3-2 had the second-best record of the day. “Nobody is playing with their teammates, nobody’s playing with people they’re familiar with. So, you pretty much have to figure it out on the fly. You don’t have practice games, you’re just in there. Everybody on the court is a great player, so it’s not that hard. But still, you just have to get used to certain people’s tendencies. It is kind of like an all-star game, but more like a serious all-star game because everyone’s trying their hardest and everyone wants to win.”
While the atmosphere was competitive throughout the day, the weekend is not just about being on a winning team. The trials, which wrap up tomorrow, are being used to select a esports national team that will represent the United States at the FIBA Esports Open II in the North and Central American Conference on Dec. 19-20. The seven-member, mixed-gender USA squad will tip-off virtually against gaming teams from Canada, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Puerto Rico for the right to be crowned conference champions.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Chiquitae126 (Chiquita Evans/BallHerAlert) when asked about USA Basketball’s commitment to selecting a mixed-gender e-national team. “This is amazing for us to be recognized and for people to actually give us a shot and believe in us. So, it's definitely a step in the right direction, and as a whole, we appreciate it. I want to thank USA Basketball for even just giving us the opportunity.”
Including Chiquitae126, who admitted she first thought her invitation from USA Basketball was a scam, the invited players were all excited about this new opportunity. Especially because when someone normally thinks of USA Basketball national teams, it’s the Olympic and FIBA World Cup squads that are filled out by the superstars of the NBA and WNBA that people think of. Not players with names like ABPureblood20 (Amber Sammons/HeartCrushers); Mama Im Dat Man (Nidal Nasser/Kings Guard Gaming) or OneWildWalnut (Dayne Downey/Blazer5 Gaming).
“I never thought 2K would bring me to USA Basketball,” said Regg (Reginald Nash Jr./Bucks Gaming), the 2020 2K League Rookie of the Year. “I was very, very blessed, very happy I got it. I was very honored that I get to represent not only the 2K League, but Bucks Gaming for drafting me in the first place. So, when I got the email, I just knew I had to take advantage of the opportunity.”
As with all teams USA Basketball fields, the goal is to select the best team possible out of the 30 players to field a competitive team for the FIBA Esports Open II. Teams have been reshuffled for Sunday’s first session before the selection panel pairs the trials roster down to 10 finalists for the final games.
Players understand they need to be on their games in order to stand out amongst this group.
“It’s always tough because coming in you want to make sure you make the team; you want to stand out,” said Radiant. “But you don’t want to be the guy that does too much. Because if I just start trying to do too much and start worrying that this guy had a great game and now I have to go score this many points, if I start doing that, it’ll put the team in a bad situation and it’ll put not just my chances but my teammates chances in jeopardy. It’s tough because obviously I want to make the team so bad but I can’t just go out there and shoot every shot. That’s not the right thing to do.”
“Basically, just play your game,” said Chiquitae126 about what her goals are to make the team. “Play your game and be a good teammate. That’s really all that a person can ask for. As for us being competitors, yeah, we're trying to make a national team but all of us are very competitive, so we want to win as well.”
“It’s definitely a pleasure to be a part of it, and it's been fun so far,” she added.
As for getting ready for tomorrow, Crush knows he has to be ready for anything.
“We have a great selection of players, 30 top players,” said Crush. “There’s no doubt in my mind that everybody’s going to want to come to play. So, I’m just going to take my momentum of going 5-0 on the first day and try to shift that to tomorrow’s energy.”