Oct. 9-10 Mini-Camp Offers USA Men's U16 Hopefuls A Head Start
There's no denying it's an exciting time at USA Basketball.
USA men's and women's team rank No. 1 in each of FIBA's five world ranking categories. The USA men and women are champions at every level, owning world championship titles at the FIBA U17, U19 and senior levels. You can also throw in Olympic gold medals from 2008 for both the men and women, and the USA is also the reigning champions at the FIBA Americas U16 and U18 levels.
If you add up records from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the FIBA and FIBA Americas competitions held over the last two summers, USA Basketball teams have compiled an amazing 87-1 win-loss record.
But the funny thing about winning any championship is there's not a lot of time to celebrate or sit back and admire what has been accomplished because another competition is always on the horizon.
That is exactly the case for USA Basketball. While the recent golden successes are something to be proud of, it starts again next summer when USA Basketball will again field men's and women's teams to compete in the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championships and the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championships.
USA Basketball's first step in defending its FIBA Americas Men's U16 title gets under way this weekend when USA Basketball conducts a two-day Developmental National Team mini-camp for 31 of the nation's top 14 and 15 year old players.
USA Basketball coaching veteran and Mid-Prairie High School (Iowa) head coach Don Showalter, will again direct the players during the mini-camp. Showalter served as head coach of USA Basketball inaugural 2009-10 Developmental National Team and led the U.S. to gold medal finishes at the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship.
Assisting Showalter during the mini-camp is Eric Flannery, 2010 USA Basketball Boys Youth Olympic Games head coach and head coach at St. Edward High School (Lakewood, Ohio), Mike Jones, head coach at Dematha High School (Hyattsville, Md.), and John Olive, 2009 USA Basketball Junior Select Team head mentor for the Nike Hoop Summit and head coach at Torrey Pines High School (Encinitas, Calif.). Serving as court coaches during the mini-camp sessions are Terry Dunn, head coach at Sierra High School (Colorado Springs, Colo.), and Brandon Monson, head coach at The Classical Academy (Colorado Springs, Colo.).
Expected to participate in the mini-camp are: Shaqquan Aaron (Mater Dei H.S. / Apple Valley, Calif.); Nathan Adrian (Morgantown H.S. /Morgantown, W.Va.); Larry Austin (Lanphier H.S. / Springfield, Ill.); Anton Beard (Parkview Magnet H.S. / Little Rock, Ark.); Leron Black (White Station H.S. / Memphis, Tenn.); James Blackmon, Jr. (Bishop Luers H.S. / Fort Wayne, Ind.); Jonathan Carson (Messmer H.S. / Milwaukee, Wis.); Parker Cartwright (Loyola H.S. / Valley Glen, Calif.); Dominique Collier (Denver East H.S. / Denver, Colo.); Devin Davis (Warren Central H.S. / Indianapolis, Ind.); Jackson Davis (Lafayette H.S. / Lexington, Ky.); Stephen Domingo (Saint Ignatius College Prep / San Francisco, Calif.); Conner Frankamp (Wichita North H.S. / Wichita, Kan.); Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S. / San Jose, Calif.); Tyler Herrron (St. Edward H.S. / Willoughby Hills, Ohio); Ikenna Iroegbu (Franklin H.S. / Elk Grove, Calif.); Dakari Johnson (St. Patrick H.S. (N.J.) / Brooklyn, N.Y.); Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei H.S. / Fullerton, Calif.); Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S. / Apple Valley, Minn.); Khadeem Lattin (Second Baptist H.S. / Houston, Texas); Jalen Lindsey (Christ Presbyterian Academy / Franklin, Tenn.); Kennedy Meeks (West Charlotte H.S. / Charlotte, N.C.); Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S. / Chicago, Ill.); Jabari Parker (Simeon H.S. / Chicago, Ill.); Malik Price-Martin (Monsignor Edward Pace H.S. / Miami, Fla.); Theo Pinson (Oak Ridge Military Academy / Greensboro, N.C.); Jordan Swopshire (Fort Zumwalt West H.S. / O’Fallon, Mo.); Charles Tucker (Lansing Eastern H.S. / Lansing, Mich.); Johnnie Vassar (Lawrence Academy (Mass.) / Chicago, Ill.); Johnathan Williams (Southwind H.S. / Memphis, Tenn.); and Justise Winslow (St. John’s School / Houston, Texas). Eric Cooper, Jr. (Lutheran H.S. / Ontario, Calif.) and Demonte Flannigan (Villa Angela-St. Joseph H.S. / Richmond Heights, Ohio) were also invited to the mini-camp but will be unable to participate because of injuries.
USABasketball.com caught up with Coach Showalter to discuss the expectations for the mini-camp and the lessons learned over the past two years.
Don Showalter, 2010 USA U17 World Championship and 2009 U16 National Team head coach (Mid-Prairie High School, Iowa)
What did you think the advantages are for holding a Development National Team mini-camp in October?
I think anytime you can bring your team together and give them an idea of what international competition will be like, while having the opportunity to evaluate them, and run them through some things that they need to be familiar with when you start the competition is an advantage. The other top international teams have been doing this for years, getting their kids together for a week or two at a time to prepare for international competition, so for us it’s a big factor. Doing this for the under 16s this year, which is the first time because we didn’t do it in 2009 with the U16s, but doing it this time will give us a really nice look at what we’ve got for players and what we can kind of expect from this team coming up.
What about this opportunity to introduce these young players to international basketball and USA Basketball.
The fun part of this at this age is getting these kids as they prepare for their high school careers and before they really get off on the AAU circuits and high school tournaments. This gives us a chance to look at them and give them some of the structure and information of what USA Basketball is all about early in their careers. I think that’s a definite advantage for USA Basketball and for these kids. I think all of them are excited to be part of this and to bring them in and give them some knowledge about what has been accomplished in the past for their age groups and at the World Championship, give them some history and let them know what they’re representing is something that is obviously bigger than any of us are and I think it is advantage for us and for the kids. I think they grow a lot mentally and physically in their basketball talents by participating in these mini-camps and then some will come back obviously in June (U16 Trials) and possibly represent the United States in the FIBA Americas U16 Championship in June. When I look back at that first (2009) under 16 team that we had and how much those players developed not only as basketball players but as individuals, it was certainly amazing.
What things did you do during previous training camps that helped you accomplish what you were trying to do with the previous team?
I think we gave them some structure but yet at the same time we gave them enough leeway we could let them use their talents. As we progress with this under 16 group, the more that we give them that leeway to use their talents I think the better they become. We certainly want to give them some structure from the offensive and defensive standpoint, but we also certainly want to let them play and use their talents. You look at what Coach K did with the national team this past summer and go all the way through to the younger levels and I think that’s really important. Some of these under 16 players don’t necessarily have the mental skills yet to take advantage of their talents because their physical talents are really good. I think our job is to help them use their talents mentally and physically in the team aspect.
How important is it to discover who can take on different roles and will this mini-camp allow you to evaluate that?
Yeah and I think it will allow the players to understand that as well. They’re all coming in, even though they’re very young, they’re coming in pretty highly touted players for their age and most of them got that way because of their scoring abilities. Now I think one of our jobs is to help them understand that there’s got to be more to their game than scoring. I think our last team of U16 and U17 players did such a great job of forming their talents to what the team needed – whether it was rebounding, whether it was getting the ball up against pressure, whether it was passing the ball – I think they all did a great job of recognizing what they needed to do to help the team out. I think this mini-camp is the first step for our new U16 players to understand their talents are more than just scoring even though that’s probably what got them ranked as highly as they have in their classes, that they also have other abilities they need to use and can really be useful in the team concept.
There’s obviously a lot fluidity, flexibility with this program. Is it important to have the flexibility so players not initially involved can be added, or to cover who’s available and who isn’t; who’s injured and who isn’t; who’s improved and who hasn’t?
Oh yeah, especially at this age. We’re going to find out a lot about the players who come to the mini-camp. We might really like a player in this group and then by next June we might find that there is somebody else who we like better. I think that’s going to be kind of the norm for this age group. We like kids that can play different positions, we like kids that are athletic that can play defense, and I think we’re going to find all that out during the mini-camp. We plan to work them pretty hard but yet give them some time to show what they can do in scrimmage situations. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s the first time we’ve done an October mini-camp with U16 players so it’s going to be a learning experience for all of us.
Having served as head coach of the 2009-10 USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team, how good of an opportunity and experience would you say this is for a young player?
It is an incredible experience! We’ve gotten feedback from parents and players about how excited they are to be a part of USA Basketball. They kept up with the national team during the World Championship in Turkey, the U17 World Championship Team in Hamburg, and the U18 team. These players know a lot of the players that we had last year on the USA U17 World Championship Team - Michael Gilchrist, Brad Beal, James McAdoo. They’ve probably played against some of them so they are very familiar with not only the players but what they have accomplished. I think the excitement that these young kids bring for USA Basketball is certainly something we can build on.