U16 Men Gear Up For Training Camp
USA Basketball welcomed 27 high school trainees to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Friday, the first day of the 2011 USA Men’s Developmental National Team Training Camp.
The first three days of the camp will consist of competition to finalize the 12-man roster for the 2011 USA U16 National Team, which will compete for a gold medal at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship for Men, June 21-25, in Cancun, Mexico.
“I think it’s going to be a great training camp,” said head coach Don Showalter (Mid-Prairie H.S./Wellman, Iowa). “I think there will be really competitive players that will be vying for a spot on the U16 National Team and a chance to go to Mexico. They’re all very special players that are part of this process with USA Basketball. You hate that only 12 will go, but that’s the way it is, and it will be hard for the committee to get it down to those 12.”
Those selected Sunday evening will continue to train through Friday, June 17, at the USOTC. From there, the team will travel to Cancun for five days of competition. The USA’s first game is slated for June 21 at 5 p.m. (MDT) versus Brazil.
The top three finishers will qualify for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Men, which will take place next summer in Lithuania.
“I’m excited mostly just for the chance to be a part of the U16 national team,” said Conner Frankamp (Wichita North H.S./Wichita, Kan.), a 6-1 guard. “It would be an honor to make this team. I’ve worked hard for this for a long time, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Guard Kendrick Nunn (Simeon H.S./Chicago, Ill.) also expressed his excitement, specifically about the chance to compete internationally.
“Man, this is everything,” Nunn said. “Competing all across the world and against different countries all over the place, this is the top of the line. It would be a great honor.”
With all players 16 years of age or younger, none have competed on a USA Basketball team before. With the new experience comes uncertainty.
“I’m really not sure what to expect,” said Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S./Apple Valley, Minn.). “I definitely know it’s going to be tough. Everyone will be battling for a roster spot and playing their best, but we’ll also be having fun. A lot of us know each other and it’ll be a good time.”
While the training camp and international competition is still new to the 27 trainees, 18 of them participated in the 2010 USA Basketball Developmental National Team mini-camp in Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct. 9-10, 2010.
Frankamp and Jones were two of those participants, and both agreed that the mini-camp was a valuable experience.
“I was really nervous at the mini-camp and because of that didn’t play to my full potential,” Frankamp said. “I feel like I can come in this week more relaxed and confident and just play.”
Besides that, though, many of the players agreed that the preparation for this week’s training camp was business as usual.
“I just made sure I was working out with full intensity, going hard all the time,” Jones said. “Other than that I didn’t change up my routine too much.”
Nunn agreed, saying the only thing he changed up was how he conditioned.
“I just tried to condition a lot more because the altitude is so different here than in Chicago,” he said. “Besides that everything was the same, just working hard.”
The team will be led by Showalter, Mid-Prairie High School’s (Iowa) longtime head coach who has had plenty of prior USA Basketball success. In four head coaching stints, Showalter has led the USA to two gold medals and a 16-5 record. He has experience with this age group, as he was at the helm of the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship Team, leading the young men to a 5-0 record and a gold medal in Mendoza, Argentina.
With its first-place finish, the USA qualified for the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship for Men, where Showalter’s USA team went 8-0 en route to another gold medal.
“For this young group, first of all they have to understand that they have to bring it every practice,” Showalter said. “We have five practices before the roster is cut down. It will be something probably different than something they’ve been through, especially with the altitude a little different. They all have a passion for the game, so I think they’re going to really enjoy this, but they’re going to have to bring it because of the level of competition.”
Showalter will be assisted by Rich Gray (St. Louis Eagles AAU/St. Louis, Mo.) and Mike Jones (DeMartha High School/Hyattsville, Md.), who have both served as USA Basketball assistant coaches in the past.
While each USA Developmental National Team athlete’s ultimate goal is to make the final USA U16 roster and compete for a gold medal, they all realize the climb that’s ahead for them, and appreciate the honor of being invited to compete with USA Basketball.
“It would mean the world to me to be on this team,” Frankamp said. “It’s a dream of mine. I hope to make that final cut and be able to compete internationally for the USA.”