Teammates Jaylen Curry, Robert Dillingham Ready to Make Up for Lost Time at Minicamp
Jaylen Curry is the only player among the 24 at camp who have experience with USA Basketball.
Every player at this weekend’s USA Men ’s Junior National Team minicamp will be new to USA Basketball — except for Jaylen Curry.
The 6-foot guard from Charlotte, North Carolina, took part in two minicamps with the team in 2019.
He no doubt would have been in contention for more in 2020, but like much in the world last year’s camps were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had a couple breakdowns,” Curry said, referring to the past year. “Luckily, there haven ’t been too many, and now I ’m excited to be back.”
As one of the 24 players selected for the camp, taking place at Strake Jesuit College Prep in Houston, Curry will have a familiar face to pass to, as Combine Academy teammate Robert Dillingham is also on the roster.
Though a rookie with USA Basketball, the 6-foot-1 guard from Hickory, North Carolina, feels ready.
“ (The last year) was hard, but it made me a better basketball player and made me better in life,” Dillingham, the No. 16 prospect on the 2023 ESPN 25 rankings, said. “I was able to work out and get in the gym and work on my game every day. I had to work on getting stronger and improving my game.”
Curry said he ’s excited to don the USA Basketball jersey and play for his country once again.
“You ’re not just playing for your city, you ’re playing for your country,” Curry said. “It ’s a big thing to play for. It feels very different from AAU or high school when you put on the USA Basketball jersey. At camp, number one, I want to be a better person, working on myself and helping our guys. Number two, getting a medal. Number three, just win games and be a better player.”
Dillingham echoed similar thoughts about this unique minicamp.
“I look at this as an even bigger opportunity,” Dillingham said. “To be one of the guys they chose is exciting. There are a lot of people, including myself, getting a chance to prove ourselves.”
Curry and Dillingham have been competing at a high level on the court for as long as they can remember.
To do it at an even higher level will make the experience even sweeter.
“I can ’t wait to be able to get out here on the court with my teammates,” Curry said. “I don ’t think I ’ve been able to showcase my talent as much.”
“I feel like I have the chance to bring my skills to the court,” Dillingham added. “I ’m just happy to have basketball back. Now with basketball, every day on the court is an opportunity. … I ’m just so excited. They didn ’t choose a lot of people. It ’s a blessing to be here.”
Curry is used to leading by example on the court. He said he doesn’t feel like he’ll need to alter his style of play just because he’s participated in previous minicamps. Instead, he said he’ll simply continue to maintain his practice habits.
Is it strange being the only player to have experience here?
“A little bit,” Curry said. “I know I have to be a leader with how I play. I ’ll give advice and tell people on the court, and they ’ll get used to it. I also want to be a leader off the court.”
Dillingham is hopeful that having played alongside Curry will make the transition a bit easier.
“Knowing the style he plays and the fact that we ’ve played together is something that will help me,” Dillingham said. “I feel like on the court we have great chemistry. Even with new players here, I know his game and know kind of what to expect.”
As for personal goals, not much will change.
“I feel like I have to go out and play my regular game,” Dillingham said. “I ’ll try not to do too much. Whatever is good for the team is what I ’m going to do. I just have to keep playing my game and trying not to force the offense or force my shot.”
There will be ultra-talented players all over the country joining Curry and Dillingham, all looking to impress the coaching staff, looking to stick with the team.
The competition surely will be fierce.
For the players, though, just being able to participate is a win in light of what has transpired in the world over the past 12 months.
Now it ’s time to play.
“I ’m so excited to be there and meet all my new teammates,” Dillingham said. “I don ’t think I ’ll be nervous. I ’ve been playing basketball so long that I don ’t think I ’ll be nervous.”
Andy Jasner is a freelance contributor to USAB.com on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.