Twenty-Three Compete For USA Roster Spot For First Time As Men’s U18 National Team Training Camp Opens
Colorado Springs, Colo. • June 5, 2012• Training Camp Roster
Twenty-three of the nation’s premier 18-and-under players gathered at the U.S. Olympic Training Center on Tuesday evening as training camp got underway to determine the 12-player USA Basketball roster for the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship played June 16-20 in Sao Sebastiáo do Paraiso, Brazil.
While these 23 certainly aren’t foreign to playing in events with other elite players, and while two of the 23 have suited up to represent USA Basketball in the Nike Hoop Summit, no one in attendance has competed for a roster spot on a USA Basketball team before. As such, players aren’t quite sure what to expect as training camp begins.
University of Tennessee forward Jarnell Stokes (Memphis, Tenn.) was blunt in saying, “I have no idea what it will be like,” on Tuesday afternoon before the first session.
Stokes is the lone collegian among those in attendance as he graduated from Southwind High School in Memphis, Tenn., at the mid-year mark of the 2011-12 school year so he could enroll in January at the University of Tennessee. Stokes appeared in 17 games for the Volunteers this past season and was named to the Southeastern Conference All-Freshman Team by the league’s coaches after averaging 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
Stokes believes his experience in the SEC gives him a big advantage over the high school graduates of 2012 and 2013 that he will be competing against in training camp.
“I feel I got ten times better than I would have by playing in college and in the SEC and getting the training I’ve gotten in college,” said Stokes. “It’s the smaller things like being able to run the floor harder, being used to a bigger court, being able to hedge on screens and being more of a leader. Another thing is being away from home. I’m used to being away from home, but a lot of high school guys will have to make an adjustment. I think these guys are up for the challenge.”
Though players in attendance come from all over the country, many have become familiar with one another at events such as all-star games. Nine in attendance competed at the 2012 All-American Championship played on April 1 during Final Four weekend in New Orleans, La., and five additional players participated in the McDonald’s All-American Game on March 28 in Chicago, Ill.
“There are a lot of good players,” said 6-3 guard Kris Dunn (New London H.S./Oakdale, Conn.). “I think everybody is going to get after one another.”
Dunn played in both the McDonald’s game and the Jordan Brand Classic, but he recognizes the difference in the USA Basketball U18 training camp.
“You’ve got to have a different mindset,” Dunn said. “In an all-star game, you’re basically trying to showboat your skills, but in this type of event you have to work very hard to get that spot. You don’t want to get sent home.”
The fear of being sent home, paired with concerns about Colorado Springs’ altitude of approximately 6,000 feet created a focus on conditioning as players prepared for training camp.
“As soon as I graduated, I went right into training hard and getting into better shape,” Rodney Purvis (Upper Room Christian Academy/Raleigh, N.C.) said. “I did a lot of swimming and different things like that. I trained very hard for this, waking up at five o’clock every morning.”
The official 2012 USA Men’s U18 National Team will be selected prior to the team’s departure for the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship on June 12.
“I’ve always wanted to play on a USA team, and this would be a dream come true,” Stokes said on the prospect of wearing the red, white and blue in Brazil later this month.
That dream is shared by all 23 in attendance, but the training camp will reveal the select 12 that get to realize that dream.