Kyrie Irving is Committed to the Red, White and Blue
June 21, 2010
Watching Kyrie Irving, the 6-2 guard out of New Jerseyís St. Patrick High School, is a little like watching a whirling dervish. One second heís at point telegraphing a play, the next heís dishing a no-look pass through traffic for an assist and the next he might be found leaping sky high for a rebound or dashing to the lane for a Play of the Day-worthy bucket.
Headed to Duke in the fall to play for USA Basketball Menís National Team head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Irving had a tough decision to make prior to arriving at the USA U18 National Team training camp in San Antonio last week. Born in Australia, he lived in Cue, a town near Melbourne, until he was a year and a half while his father played pro ball for the Bulleen Boomers. As a dual citizen, Irving had the option of playing for Australia or for the United States. If he chose Australia, he would more than likely be going up against Coach K and the U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics. Instead, he opted to don the red, white and blue and hope that his game is good enough four or six years down the road to play for the USA Basketball National Team.
Irving was a finalist for the 2010 Naismith High School Boys Player of the Year Award, listed on the USA Today and Parade Magazine All-Americas first teams and was the Gatorade New Jersey Player of the Year. Needless to say, USA Basketball is pleased to welcome the 2010 All-America first teamer into its family. We sat down with the future Duke Blue Devil to discuss training camp, his decision to play for the USA and a few other things during a break in the USA U18 National Teamís two-a-days.
How has this experience been for you so far, what have you learned this past week?
Just how to take a leadership role. Itís hard to come out here with a different group of guys, weíre all so talented. To make it a collective effort and everybody giving the same intensity every practice, itís been a challenge for everybody.
What are you learning from the coaching staff?
Theyíre teaching us to play hard every possession. When you go to college, every possession counts. You canít take any possession off.
A lot of your teammates have said these are the hardest practices they have ever had. Is that the case for you?
No, not really. All the drills that we do here, I do at my high school. So itís not really the worst Iíve ever gone through.
How much will this experience help you at Duke next year?
Itís definitely going to be a big adjustment. No freshman knows what to expect until they actually experience it. I heard preseason conditioning is actually the worst. Once the season gets going I know they still go hard, but youíre playing games. Itís going to be a big adjustment.
What about the experience of playing alongside your future teammate Josh Hairston?
Oh yeah, of course. Me and Josh are close already, so itís great to have him out here.
What are you doing off the court?
The main people I hang out with are Austin (Rivers) and Vander (Blue). Weíre always together, going to our secret spot, which is where the TV is. Weíre always disappearing (laughs). Those are the main guys I hang out with.
Are you following the World Cup?
Yeah, a little bit.
Are you rooting for the USA or Australia?
I have to go with the U.S. on this one.
Was it a difficult decision for you to come out and play for USA Basketball instead of Australia?
It was a very difficult decision, especially having the opportunity to play in the 2012 Olympics for the Australia team when Iím at Duke. For the USA team, thinking of the future, itís a better opportunity for me.
What are you planning to study at Duke?
In my summer courses Iím taking English and African-American studies. I can only minor in journalism at Duke, so Iím going for African-American studies.
I know youíre interested in sports journalism following your basketball career. Do you do any writing now?
I do a little bit. Not as much anymore because Iím constantly working out and playing games. I donít have much time to write anything.
Do you do a lot of reading?
I still read. All the time. When I get on my computer I click on the news and see whatís going on in the world.
How much international travel have you done?
Aside from Australia, Iíve only been outside of the country twice. Iíve only been to the Dominican Republic and Italy.
How is this team coming together?
At first it was very difficult, but now everybodyís starting to get a feel for one another and where their spots are on the floor. Itís coming together really well.
Are you looking forward to playing against the U17 World Championship Team tonight?
Of course. Itís always good to play against great competition. They have all the top younger kids. Itíll be a great experience to scrimmage against the 17s.
Who is emerging as the team leader on your squad?
Other than myself, I would say Jereme (Richmond), Patric (Young), theyíre the main guys. But everybody has their own little piece that they contribute to the team, which makes us pretty good.
You gained some international experience this year in the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit. What can you tell me about what you expect to see in the upcoming tournament?
High intensity throughout the whole game. The Hoop Summit was a hard-fought game for us. We only one by four points. It was very hard fought. The intensity was so great. Itís a very physical game.