Adonis Thomas And USA Junior National Select Team Kick Off Practice
Portland, Ore. ē April 7, 2011
The 10 members of the 2011 USA Junior National Select Team took the court for their first practice this morning in Portland, Ore., and with just four sessions overall before Saturdayís 14th annual Nike Hoop Summit, there is a lot to be done in a short amount of time.
On April 9 at 7 p.m. at the Rose Garden, the USA will face off against the World Select Team, which includes some of the worldís best players age 19-years-old and younger. The World Team, which features 11 members overall, began practicing three days ago.
Despite the time crunch, several things are working in the USAís favor. For example, eight of the 10 players have won gold medals previously with USA Basketball at either the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship or the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, including four who have collected two gold medals. Furthermore, USA head coach Kevin Sutton was an assistant coach for the 2009 U16s and 2010 U17s, giving him a pretty good understanding of his roster.
Also working in the USAís favor will be Adonis Thomas, a 6-7 guard from Melrose High School in Cordova, Tenn., who averaged 23.0 points, 12.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a senior this past season. Thomas is one of those two-time USA gold medalists who also played in the McDonaldís All-American game last week and who will play in the Jordan Brand Classic next week. USABasketball.com sat down for a few minutes with Thomas, who told us defense is the key.
How was the first practice?
It was great just being out on the court with the same guys from the past two summers. I was looking forward to seeing some of the guys I hadnít seen all season, and, of course, I saw some of the guys last weekend at the McDonaldís game. Itís just great to be wearing USA jerseys again.
Do you feel like you picked up right where you left off with USA Basketball last summer?
Yeah. We were going hard and competing right away from the start of practice, the same way we left off last year. We are not messing around. We are looking for the win.
Were you surprised Coach Sutton started off with a defensive tone today?
No, I actually was looking forward to it. We know that we have to play defense against the World Team. That is what will win us the game. Thatís what going to win every game in basketball, basically. Offensively, we have a lot of talented guys, and I know the World Team does, too, so itís going to be our defense that makes the difference.
You mentioned playing in the McDonaldís game last week. Whatís your schedule like right now?
Basically, Iíve got to balance my school work with a lot of travel. Itís a lot of make-up work, and itís a lot of being on planes.
What are some of the things you do to stay on top of all of those things?
I just try to do a lot of work after school, and I try to get my work done early. Then I do it all again the next day. The only rest I get is when I get into bed.
The USA has just four practices before Saturdayís Nike Hoop Summit, is that enough time?
We probably wonít be able to develop a complete system, but the team chemistry is what will help us get past that. We are very familiar with each otherís games, and we feel like we will be able to score, so itís our defensive system that we are focused on in practice.
Do you remember any of the World Team players from past FIBA competitions?
A lot of these guys look familiar. We know their personnel. We look forward to playing against these guys. We look forward to what they are going to bring; they are going to compete hard. We know we are going to have to go out there and be tougher than they are.
Do you feel rested and ready to go?
Not really. Iím going to try and drink a lot of fluids and take it easy between practices to regain some of my energy. But Iíll be ready to play.
Do you know what your role on this team will be?
Basically the coaches want me to attack the goal more. They know my shooting has improved. They still want me to be that attacker, slasher-type player. They know Iím willing to guard any player on the court, and they want me to bring my defense and bring intensity on offense.