Stephen Domingo Cashing In On Second USA Opportunity
Among the 12 members of the 2012 USA Basketball Men's U17 World Championship Team that was named on June 19 after five days of training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., are four players that missed the cut for last year's 2011 USA U16 National Team, including Stephen Domingo (St. Ignatius Prep/San Francisco, Calif.).
"I was still happy I was part of the Developmental National Team and that they went and won the gold medal in Cancun, but I knew that was a spot I really wanted," Domingo said of the 2011 USA U16 squad, which qualified the USA for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship by virtue of a 5-0 record." I wanted to represent my country, so I just got back in the gym and vowed to myself that next year I wouldn't have any regrets, and I would go leave it all out on the floor."
Returning to his junior season at St. Ignatius Prep in California, Domingo averaged 13.3 points per game in 2011-12, hampered during the first half of the season by a healing broken wrist.
"The day before the (USA Basketball) mini-camp in October (2011), I broke my wrist, so that set me back," Domingo said of his junior year. "I came back late in the season, and I was kind of playing on the fly. At the end of the season, I started getting my groove, but overall it wasn't as succesful as I had hoped it would be."
Recovery is often a difficult process, but Domingo said he learned a valuable lesson during his time away.
"It taught me how much I love basketball. It was tough being away, but I also saw that a lot of stuff is muscle memory, a lot of stuff comes back to you easily, you just have to keep putting in the work. The hardest part was getting back in shape."
Conditioning was just one of the things Domingo said he focused on this past year.
"I was working to get better as a player," Domingo said. "I knew if I got better, it would translate here. I knew if I made shots, if I played hard on defense, that I would have the opportunity to be on the team. I worked on getting stronger, getting more physical. When you come here and your nerves are shot, your shooting percentage goes down a little bit. I just wanted to make sure that I was making enough shots that even if my percentage went down, I would still be making a high percentage."
Domingo's dedication paid off yesterday when, after nine practice sessions, the roster that had begun with 29 players on June 15 was trimmed from 14 finalists to the official, 12-member roster.
"When I found out I made the team, I was ecstatic," Domingo said. "I was really excited to get back to practice and getting ready to win a gold medal."
Practice is led each day by three-time USA Basketball Developmental Coach of the Year, Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S., Iowa), with assistant coaches Rich Gray (St. Louis Eagles AAU, Mo.) and Mike Jones (DeMatha Catholic H.S., Md.). While the same trio led the USA to a gold medal and its qualifying berth in the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, Showalter also captured gold medals at the 2009 FIBA Americas U16 Championship and the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship.
"I have the highest respect for coach Showalter," Domingo said. "He knows his stuff, and he gets us amped to play. He gives us these 'mind candies' at the beginning of every practice, and those just get you in the right mindset to go out and play, and he has us really believing in implementing his gold-medal standards. I had the highest respect for him the minute I came in, and it has just grown in the last two years."
Including mini-camps in October of 2010 and 2011, as well as training camp in June of 2011, the current training camp is the fourth for many of the USA Basketball Men's Developmental National Team members, and the players know each other well.
"We went to the movies, and we had a blast, jokes all around," Domingo said of the team's night on Monday (June 18). "We're so clsoe that you can have friendly banter with each other. That kind of shows that we are a team because we can make fun of each other and then when it comes to the court that carries over, and we are all supporting each other. We all have one goal of getting the gold medal."
While undoubtedly all 12 players have improved their skills and conditioning over the past week, Domingo said he has learned one thing more.
"Basically I've learned that every day is a new day. You might be on the back burner and you may not get what you want one day, but the next day if you come out and give it your all, you can achieve your dreams. You just got to keep pushing and always keep playing hard."
With just one more day of training (June 20) before the team departs for exhibition games in the Canary Islands before the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, which will be played June 29-July 8 in Kaunas, Lithuania, the hard work for Domingo and his teammates is far from over.