Sizing Up The 2009 Nike Hoop Summit World Team
April 8, 2009 - Portland, Ore.
It just so happens that two of the best English-speaking members of the 2009 Nike Hoop Summit World Team, Edwin Jackson (France / Nanterre) and Donatas Motiejunas (Lithuania / Aisciai Kaunas), also are two of the most experienced members of the international squad. Jackson, a 6'2' guard, tallied 22 points against the USA in the 2008 FIBA U19 World Championship and averaged 11.3 ppg. in last summer's FIBA Europe U20 Championship. The 7'0' Motiejunas was named MVP of the 2008 FIBA Europe U18 Championship, where he averaged 18.2 ppg. and 10.2 rpg., and he represented Lithuania in the 2008 FIBA Europe U20 Championship as well, helping his country to the silver medal in both competitions. USABasketball.com caught up with both players after the World Team's first two days of practice to help you size up the USA's competition.
How does it feel to be in Portland, getting ready for Saturday's game?
I have been to the USA, but I have never been to Portland. It definitely feels great because I'm half American, so it's like even though I play with the World Team, I still consider America my country. My dad is American. He was born in Monroe, Louisiana. I don't diss one or the other. France and USA are both my country. Coming back home and playing basketball in the home of basketball - it's great to be here. Great guys, great staff, and it feels really good.
Your French team lost two close games to the USA in the 2008 FIBA U19 World Championship. Can you tell me about that game?
It was tough to lose because we really wanted to showcase our skills and show the rest of the world that we could play against the top American guys. It was a tough loss. Yeah, I had a good game (he recorded 22 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in an 87-82 loss in the second round to the USA), but I was frustrated even more because I had a good game and we still ended up losing. I'm going to try and get a good game again Saturday, and hopefully we are going to win. I have to take my revenge on what happened last time.
As a guard, are you excited about the team Nike has put together?
Definitely. We are a tall team. Our team has a real high level of basketball IQ. We've been playing with older guys. Most of the guys are professionals, so we have been around like 30-year-olds and grown ups. That might help us, even though we are not as athletic as the Americans, we can count on the fact that we have more experience at the higher level.
Were you familiar with the Nike Hoop Summit?
I did know about the Nike Hoop Summit. A lot of French guys did a great job here, as far as Nicolas Batum (2007), Tony Parker (2000) and Alexis Ajinca (2007 and 2008), and they went on to the league (NBA). As far as Tony Parker, he is a model for me. I think if I follow his footsteps and try to do the same thing that he did, I'm going to have a bright future.
Is their a lot of pressure to play well on Saturday?
First of all I know this is a chance, an opportunity. I want to do great things because we know that people are around watching. The thing now is not about scoring a lot of points, it's showing that we can play basketball. We know how to pass; we have great fundamentals. People who watch us should say, 'He is a great basketball player, not just someone who scores.' I know it's a great opportunity to show that we might have a chance to go to the NBA. It's my dream to come here and play basketball in the biggest league in the world.
It's pressure, but it's a whole week, not only one game. The whole week there is a lot of people looking. Maybe the skills will be there, but you could have a bad shooting game or whatever. It's a lot of pressure, but as far as professional basketball players, you have to deal with that pressure every day. With my team in France, I have to have a good game most of the time, so my team can win. So every Saturday, because we play every Saturday in Europe, I've got pressure on my shoulders that we can't afford to lose that game or that we have to make the playoffs. I think it's part of the job to have pressure on our shoulders. It is going to show who is capable or not to play in big games. It's only one game, but in life in general, we don't get a lot of chances. So it's one shot, and we have to make the best of it.
Were you familiar the Nike Hoop Summit?
I heard about it last year when Janavicious (Zygimantas Javavicious played in the 2008 Nike Hoop Summit) came here. He is a Lithuania guy. After that my agent told me the history about the Hoop Summit. Every player who is playing here I think feels honored. To be a part of the World Team is really big honor.
Do you know your World Team teammates?
I have played against some of the guys in the European Championship. It is just a couple of guys I did not know before here.
Do you know anything about the U.S. team?
Right now, I have never seen any of the USA players. I'm waiting for it. I think they are also going to be really athletic. All USA national teams are really strong and good. This is the first time I will play against U.S. players. This year is going to be the U19 World Championship, so we are going to meet there too -- I hope so anyway.
What is your goal for this week?
Right now I don't expect to jump into NBA. I have to improve my game and my body building. That's why I think this a good for me and my future in Europe. I came here to see what kind of players are here. This is the best players in the world, so I'm going to watch and learn from them.