Competition Fierce At USA Developmental National Team Training Camp
Oct. 15, 2011• Colorado Springs, Colo.
Watching the first session of the 2011-12 USA Basketball Men’s Developmental National Team’s mini-camp this morning, two things became quickly apparent: a lot of guys have improved their games in just four months and the competition to make the 12-member USA U17 World Championship Team next summer is going to be fierce.
“There are some players who didn’t make our team last year, who are really putting forth a great effort and stepping up their game a lot,” said USA head coach Don Showalter of Iowa’s Mid-Prairie High School. “The improvement was really evident.”
For some guys, like DeMatha High School’s (Md.) Beejay Anya, this weekend is about redemption. He is one of the players about whom Showalter referred. Anya was not one of the 12 players selected to represent the United States at the 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship or at the 2011 FIBA 3x3 Youth World Championship. And being cut last summer was a heaping platter of motivation for the 6-7, formerly 275-pound Anya.
“Since that time I lost about 30 pounds,” said the noticeably fitter Anya. “I’ve just been working my body, because I know one of the reasons I didn’t make the team was because I was out of shape. I was too heavy. I felt that if I came out here with a better body, maybe they’ll consider me for the team next summer.”
While some players used the upsetting news of not making the USA U16 National Team as motivation, the 12 guys who did travel to Cancun spent close to three weeks training and competing together, which showed on the court. Tyus Jones (Apple Valley H.S., Wis.) found Aaron Gordon (Archbishop Mitty H.S., Calif.) not once, not twice, but three times in a single five-minute scrimmage.
It’s not surprising, however, given that Jones led all competitors in the eight-team tournament for assists with a whopping 5.6 apg. average, while Gordon led the U.S. and ranked fourth among all teams for scoring with 17.0 ppg.
“The thing they have the advantage with is that they played together this summer,” said Showalter. “You could tell that today. And I also think that the kids who didn’t make it are going to give those guys who did make it down in Cancun a run for their money, simply because it’s wide open. Everybody likes that position.”
“It’s really great,” stated Conner Frankamp (Wichita North H.S., Kan.), who was teammates with Jones and Gordon this summer and averaged 8.6 ppg. and ranked eighth in the tournament after averaging 3.6 apg. “I’m excited to be out here again with all my teammates. (Being a part of the USA U16 National Team) helped me a lot. Playing against all the different competition from the different countries is a lot different from playing in our country. I got a lot more experience, which helped me a lot this summer.”
In addition to the 12 members of the USA U16 National Team who rolled to a 5-0 record, claimed the gold medal and qualified the U.S. for the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship, four members of the USA DNT who competed as part of the USA 3x3 Youth World Championship Team return this weekend to USA Basketball.
While the four didn’t medal, they played hard and learned that in a game which either ended after 10 minutes or after the first team hit 21, it’s hard to make up for a bad minute of play. If your team has a five-minute drop-off in a 40-minute game, there’s usually time to make up for the temporary lack of focus. However, when games might go to just seven minutes or so, there’s no making up for lost time.
“I learned that even if we lost, we can still have fun,” said recent Montverde Academy (Fla.) transfer Rondae Jefferson, who was the USA’s leading scorer at the 3x3 tournament. “We were always together. We would be mad for the time being, but when it came time to get back on the court, we were always together. It was pretty exciting and awesome, just to be around those other three guys and to play hard. In that type of game you can never give up, you can never take any possessions off. You have to play hard all the time and give it your all.”
In addition to the competition, everyone was looking forward to the weekend to get back on the court with their USA teammates, who are all among the best young players in the country, and having fun.
“It’s pretty good to come out and have fun playing with guys you only see once in a blue moon,” added Jefferson. “Just to play basketball with them and have fun makes this weekend fun.”
And how did the slimmer, Anya feel about his first session?
“I think I played well, but I think I need to come out strong this afternoon and even stronger tomorrow, too,” Anya stated. “I need to get stronger every single day, every single practice.
“It’s great being out here,” added Anya. “I love being with these guys. These are some of the best players in the country, by far. Anything I can do here will make me better and I’m glad to be here.”
And Frankamp? What is he hoping to get out of this weekend? “Just to get better playing against the competition again, get stronger and improve.”