Nation’s Best 17-And-Under Players Converge At USA Basketball Training Camp
June 15, 2012 • Colorado Springs, Colo.
A journey that will end July 8 at the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship for Men in Kaunas, Lithuania, began on Friday as 29 of the nation’s elite 17-and-under players gathered at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Colorado Springs, Colo., to open training camp and determine the 12-player roster that will represent the USA in Lithuania.
Among the 29 in attendance are all but one of 12 members from the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship Team that went 5-0 en route to the gold medal in Cancun, Mexico, last year. Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S./San Jose, Calif.) accepted an invitation to training camp, but is unable to attend because of an injury. That team was coached by Don Showalter (Iowa City H.S./Wellman, Iowa) who returns to lead the 2012 U17 squad.
“Familiarity for them is going to be a really good thing,” Showalter said before the team’s first practice session on Friday evening. “Our expectations are to pick the best team to go to the World Championship from this group. It will be a competitive four or five practice sessions, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Showalter also coached the 2010 USA Men’s U17 National Team that went 8-0 as USA Basketball’s first U17 World Championship squad captured gold in Hamburg, Germany.
“It gives me a really good idea of what we need for international competition,” said Showalter on his prior experience with USA Basketball. “Having been through the process before certainly helps me out. I kind of know what we need as far as players and versatility. Knowing what the international teams do offensively and what kind of defensive players we need, putting all that together I feel pretty good about the players we need.”
One of the 12 holdovers from the 2011 USA U16 team is Conner Frankamp (Wichita North H.S./Wichita, Kan.), who averaged 8.6 points per game in Cancun, including a game-high 22 points in a 118-46 triumph over Costa Rica to close preliminary play. Frankamp has experienced more than one USA Basketball training camp and knows the rigors that lie in store over the next several days.
“It’s the best players in the country so the competition is going to be really good,” Frankamp said. “They’re all trying to get one spot, so I’m sure they’ll all come out hard.”
Isaiah Whitehead (Lincoln H.S./Brooklyn, N.Y.) also participated in the 2011 USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team training camp, but did not land one of the 12 coveted spots on the U16 FIBA Americas roster. He returns this year and has been using last year’s exclusion as motivation.
“It’s definitely motivation,” said Whitehead on missing the team last year. “I think I came in a little soft last year so I’m going to come in and play harder, with more intensity and be more vocal to try and make the team.”
The USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team Committee faces a difficult task in selecting just 12 to wear the red, white and blue in Lithuania. One point of emphasis that will help a player stand out among his peers is defense.
“You have to play defense,” Showalter said. “We’re a pressure defensive team, so guys that can play defense, we’re obviously looking for that. We’re looking for high basketball I.Q. and obviously to take good shots. We tell players if they take bad shots they’re going to shoot themselves out of a position. Finally, play hard. We need people to take charges and be on the floor after loose balls.”
The primary goal of each player at training camp is to earn the privilege to wear “USA” on their chest and travel with the team to the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, an opportunity that Frankamp cherished last year.
“It was an amazing feeling to put on that jersey that has ‘USA’ across it,” said Frankamp. “Having that happen is for sure a dream come true and something I’ll always remember.”
The committee is expected to name the USA U17 World Championship Team on Sunday afternoon, and this weekend’s sessions will separate the select 12 that will be able to travel to Kaunas in pursuit of a shared gold medal dream.