The 18-Year-Old Veteran
June 26, 2010 - San Antonio, Texas
All members of the 2010 USA Basketball Men's U18 National Team are 18 years old or younger. Most will be going to college next year and a few will be seniors in high school. But Abdul Gaddy, who skipped a year of school early on, already has a year of college hoops under his belt.
This past season the 6-4 guard out of Tacoma helped the University of Washington compile a 26-10 record as the Huskies captured the 2010 Pac-10 Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. He saw action in all 36 games and grew his game well beyond where it was when he competed in the 2009 Nike Hoop Summit as a high school senior. He's quick to acknowledge that much of his growth in college came in the area of maturity. No longer the biggest star on his team, Gaddy learned from his teammates the value of being on time, listening to his coaches and can fully appreciate what happens when several individuals meld into a well-oiled machine.
He and his fellow USA U18 National Team members are working on becoming a single unit. They're compressing a season's worth of team bonding into two weeks. But Gaddy is feeling good about the way the team is coming together and tonight will be the USA's first test when it faces the U.S. Virgin Islands at 7:00 p.m. (CDT).
Everyone on the team is about the same age, but you're the only one with a year of college experience under your belt. What did you learn in your first year that you didn't do in high school?
It's a lot about maturity, being on time, little things like that. Working hard in practice, going hard all the time, just being coachable, not talking back to the coaches. When you've been the best player and now you've got to come to a team where you have to sacrifice your game to be a part of a team, be a part of the USA team. It's little things like that.
What did you learn at Washington that you've been able to transfer over to this team?
I learned to work hard. I try to go hard in the gym because you never know when it's going to be your last time playing. I think the most important thing is just maturing. Knowing what you have to do to for the team. I learned to play hard and I just want to play hard to win the gold medal.
You have two younger siblings. Do they look up to you?
Yes, they do. They can't come down here to watch the tournament. Hopefully they'll be able to watch it on the internet. If not, I'll have to tell them about it when I get home. Hopefully I'll have a gold medal to show them.
Do you play hoops with them?
My brother plays basketball, he's a senior in high school this year and my little sister is going to be in fourth grade next year. My sister really doesn't follow basketball. She's more of a cheerleader, but my brother does.
Do you play some one-on-one?
Yeah, all the time. I win all the time (laughs). But that's just because I like to win. I don't like losing. It makes him better.
What do you think about the team overall, are you coming together?
I think we are. I think we have a really good team. We've been working hard and we're not working hard for nothing. We've been working hard and gelling. Come tournament time I think we're going to show it.
How difficult is it to come together like that in a short period of time? Your college team has months, whereas this team will be together for only a few weeks.
It's tough because we've been practicing hard two times a day. It's a wear and tear on the body. It's good because we've learned a lot of things. We learned our offense and defense, so that's the good thing. The tough thing is just the wear and tear on the body, but it's good for us.
Are you ready to get this started?
Yes, I am.
And one final question. You don't like cake or ice cream?
No. I don't like that. I never had. My mom always got it for my birthday, but I just blew out the candles and then gave it to everybody else.