International Game Targets Youth Movement, USA Basketball Capitalizes with Gold Medals
Colorado Springs, Colo. • March 4, 2013
The FIBA Youth Movement Takes Root
In November 2005, FIBA announced the creation of a new event: the U17 World Championship. The first U17 Worlds would be held every other year starting in 2010, which meant the launch of U16 zone qualifying tournaments in odd-numbered years, beginning in 2009.
“There is no better development program than international competitions on the highest level,” stated FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann during the 2005 FIBA Central Board meeting in Rome. “We expect a further raise in the level of the game if we expose our players more regularly and earlier in their career to top level basketball. No training camp or clinic can offer the same value to the youngsters than playing against the very best in their age category from around the world. It will stimulate the development of a new and large pool of young talented players across the five continents.”
FIBA’s announced plans meant USA Basketball had a fantastic opportunity to get athletes involved in international competition at a younger age, and hopefully that would translate into success in events for older USA teams as the athletes from the U16 and U17 age groups begin to matriculate to the U18, U19, World University Games and various other USA National Team events.
USA Basketball hosted a USA Men’s Youth Development Festival for rising high school juniors and seniors (and a few sophomores) from 1998-2007 in order to introduce athletes to the international rules. The YDF saw the likes of now three-time Olympians Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James compete in the Festival. The event also was an opportunity for USA Basketball to introduce athletes to its organizational culture, which not only includes striving to win gold medals, but also to be good ambassadors.
In 2005 and 2007 USA Basketball hosted youth teams from Brazil, Canada, China, New Zealand and Russia in order to give the Festival even more of an international feel. That, however, wasn’t the same as a zone qualifier in far-off Mendoza, Argentina, where the inaugural FIBA Americas U16 Championship was held in 2009.
USA Basketball Launches Developmental National Team Program
And so, with the U16s on the horizon, USA Basketball terminated the Youth Development Festival and selected respected and internationally experienced high school coach Don Showalter, currently at Iowa City High School (Iowa), to lead the 2009-10 USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team.
|Bradley Beal and Johnny O'Bryant share a laugh on the bench during the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.|
“It made a lot of sense from the standpoint of developing players for not only the United States, but for every country,” said Showalter. “You’re traveling overseas with 16- and 17-year-olds for international competition. I think it especially helped the kids in our country get acclimated to the different rules, giving them an idea of what international competition is all about. It has been really good for our younger kids to have that experience.”
First on the agenda was a mini-camp in June 2009. Held in Colorado Springs, Colo., the roster featured 19 of the nation’s rising stars, including 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year candidatesBrad Beal and André Drummond, as well as Duke's Quinn Cook, all of whom were eventually named to the 2009 USA U16 National Team.
Beal, Drummond and the rest of the squad headed to Mendoza in order to help the U.S. qualify for the 2010 U17 Worlds. Along the way, they not only won all five games in dominating fashion en route to the gold medal, but created friendships that will likely last a lifetime.
“I just remember the bond that we created at such a young age,” reflected Drummond. “Even to this day, we’re all out here on the same floor again. It’s definitely a blessing that we started so early and got to know each other well. We ended up going to big-time colleges and played against each other. Mike (Kidd-Gilchrist) got the best of all of us and won the (NCAA) championship (laughs). It’s just great we’re all here in the NBA together.”
The core of the 2009 squad advanced to play in the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship and picked up a few other talents along the way, including the Charlotte Bobcats’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague of the Chicago Bulls and Tony Wroten of the Memphis Grizzlies, as the U.S. captured gold with a perfect 8-0 mark. Beal, after averaging a team-high 18.3 points a game, while shooting a blistering 47.7 percent (31-65 3pt FGs), was crowned MVP and was joined by all-tournament team selection James Michael McAdoo, who posted 14.5 points and team-bests of 7.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game.
In all, five of the 12 players on the ’10 USA U17 squad are currently competing in the NBA, while the rest are playing starring roles for their collegiate teams.
Following on the heels of the successful 2009-10 USA Developmental National Team, Showalter was again called upon to lead the 2011-12 team that was again filled with the nation’s top young stars. During his second two-year term, Showalter did not disappoint. His term began with a gold medal at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship with a team led by tournament MVP Jabari Parker and other prep standouts such as Larry Austin, Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson, Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor. The following year Stanley Johnson, Jones, Okafor and Parker returned, playing alongside several newcomers, including Joel Berry, Dakari Johnson and Justise Winslow, as the USA captured its second-straight U17 World Championship. This time it was Okafor (13.6 ppg., 8.3 rpg.) who was named the FIBA U17 MVP, while defensive specialist Winslow (9.9 ppg., 8.8 rpg., 2.6 spg.) was also an all-tournament selection.
Recently Showalter was asked to return to head up USA Basketball’s biennial youth squad in hopes of becoming three-time defending U17 world champions.
|Aaron Gordon averaged USA team-highs of 17.0 ppg. and 11.2 rpg. en route to winning gold and earning the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship MVP award.|
“Obviously it’s a great honor to be asked to return,” Showalter said. “I was surprised and very humbled by the appointment again. After the first U16 and U17, I was pleasantly surprised to be asked back. Now, to have a third term is really exciting for me as a high school coach. I think what I bring to the table is obviously the experience of the international competition. I hope that pays off in the long run, not only for our U16/U17 kids, but also for USA Basketball. Now that our original groups have been acclimated to the international game, down the road as team members of older USA Basketball teams, it’ll really help them out.”
Basketball, Life Lessons and Mind candy: A Winning Combination
Involved with USA Basketball since 1998, Showalter not only brings basketball expertise to the team, he is credited with the perpetuation of USA Basketball’s culture of excellence on and off the court.
“It’s interesting because I do keep in contact with a lot of former players and they always come back to things that they learned from our coaching staff when they were a part of USA Basketball,” reflected Showalter. “They keep bringing up not only their basketball time after USA Basketball in terms of their college and NBA careers, but things outside of basketball. It’s one of those things where what they learn with us helps them in all forms of their life off and on the court. That’s a neat thing to see.”
“He just always had a positive mind-set everyday,” said Drummond. “Coming in, he always knew what to do. He always had a positive, positive mind-set.”
Showalter begins each practice or game-day shoot-around with a team meeting that sometimes includes film of the previous day’s practice, or video from USA National Team camps and competitions, an outline of what practice will be like that day and team announcements. Perhaps most important, in his overview about what he expects from the athletes each day is a quick shot of wisdom that Showalter has dubbed “mind candy.”
Showalter doesn’t just read his mind candy aloud; he calls upon the players for their take on the daily thought. What does it mean to them? How can it help them in life?
“Coach Show taught me a lot,” said Austin. “He taught me how to stay humble, stay hungry and how to get out of our comfort zone. He taught me how to be a team player both on and off the court, and be a leader on and off the court.”
And each day at the end of practice or after a game, Showalter brings it up again as a reminder that USA Basketball isn’t just about playing a game. It’s about getting better on and off the court. It’s about young men learning a few life lessons that hopefully they will take with them as they move on in their careers.
And they all seem to remember those lessons.
|A sampling of Showalter’s mind candy:|
Duke-bound Parker’s favorite mind candy: “Is pressure going to make a diamond or bust pipes?” In other words, are you going to fold under the pressure of playing for a gold medal or step up, take control and win the game?
Mater Dei High School’s Stanley Johnson couldn’t remember if it was mind candy or not, but he learned to “control what you can control” while playing for Showalter. It’s a lesson he won’t forget and still plays that way now.
As for Stephen Domingo, who is headed to Georgetown next year, his top mind candy is: “The will to win is nothing unless you have the will to prepare!”
Okafor and Missouri-bound Johnathan Williamshad the same favorite mind candy advice: “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
Drummond’s favorite was “when one shines, we all shine together,” while Duke guard Cook remained undecided, “(I) can't just pick one!! To many great ones!”
Watch highlights from the 2011 USA U16 National Team's gold-medal run.
While Jones said his top mind candy was “only you can determine your attitude and how you respond to a difficult situation."
Austin, who was disappointed at not making the trip to Lithuania with the 2012 U17 squad, but won a silver medal with the 2012 USA 3x3 U18 World Championship Team, learned a lot as a member of the USA Developmental National Team and passes off this advice to the incoming group of players, “just to work hard everyday in practice; listen to the coaching staff and wanting to play with pride wearing the USA jersey, wanting to play on a USA team, wanting to win and bring home the gold.”
One of Showalter’s most important lessons, and one that resonates throughout most of his mind candy, is that in order to win, especially at the international level, 12 individuals must come together as a team.
“You have to realize that this is a big sacrifice,” emphasized Beal. “All those guys are talented. Everybody’s able to score. Everybody plays pretty good defense. So, you have to sacrifice for the good of everybody else. That’s what I loved about the team I was on. Everybody sacrificed and we all played together. We had one mission in mind and that was to win the gold medal and we were able to do that. My only advice to them is to focus on the task at hand.”
|Not only did the 2011 squad win gold, athletes and coaches took advantage of the opportuntiyto visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the sacred city of Chichen-Itza on the Yucatán peninsula.|
They Got Next
The 2013-14 USA Basketball Developmental National Team members will be announced in a few weeks. The list will include the top prospects from the high school classes of 2015 and 2016. Most of the athletes are the best player on their respective teams and will want to prove they’re the top dog when training camp opens in Colorado Springs, Colo., on May 30.
“Every group is a little different,” said Showalter. “The last two had some different strengths. The first group with Brad Beal and Andre Drummond and the rest of those guys, was very, very good. Then we came back the last two years with a group equally as good, but in a different way. I think this group will be the same type of thing, where they’re going to be really good players, but it’s going to be a different type of team than the last two. “
No matter how many rising stars are on the roster, USA Basketball teams are not all-star teams. They’re put together with one goal in mind: continuing the DNT’s tradition of winning a gold medal.
Drummond saw first-hand how the USA Developmental National Team Committee, as with all USA Basketball selection committees, watches to see how the DNT interacts with one another. Do they pass the ball or simply go straight to the hoop on each possession? Do they put their teammates in position to score? Take a charge? Sprint over to help a fallen teammate get back on his feet?
“Definitely for the young guys, just being in there is great,” stated Drummond. “Be yourself and don’t try to do anything crazy. Look to the coaching staff. It’s a great experience and hopefully if they make the team, they get to travel around and be able to bond like we did with my group of guys.”
2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship
|The 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Men will be held June 11-15 in Maldonado, Uruguay. The 12-member USA U16 National Team will be selected from participating athletes in the 2013 USA Developmental National Team training camp, which will be held in Colorado Springs, Colo., beginning on May 30. Approximately 25 members of the 2013-14 USA DNT will be announced in March and athletes eligible for this team must have been born on or after Jan. 1, 1997. The top four finishing teams at the FIBA Americas U16 Championship earn a berth into the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship.|
This year’s squad will travel to Maldonado, Uruguay, for the June 11-15 FIBA Americas U16 Championship with a bulls-eye on its back. International teams tend to play their best game of the tournament against the U.S. Everyone is looking to unseat the reigning champion and the 16-and-unders from the Americas are no different, which makes it more essential for the 12 players from the United States to play together.
“Our biggest job is to be able to take the individuals and form a team,” added Showalter. “That’s what our job as a coaching staff needs to be. A lot of things that we do, such as the mind candy and those kinds of things, help to develop a team aspect as opposed to a ‘me’ aspect.”
“It’s very important because you have one goal and one goal only,” emphasized Austin. “You have to set aside your ego and buy into whatever the coach is trying to do, because you’re trying to win a gold medal. You want to come back home with the gold medal for your country.”
In the end, the experience of playing for your country is something that can’t be easily replicated. So, in addition to playing their best for a single goal, the athletes should take time to soak it all in.
“Just enjoy it,” was Anthony’s piece of advice for this year’s crop of U16 hopefuls. “It’s one experience you might not ever get again. So, I want everybody to enjoy that experience.”