Men’s U19 Participants Arrive At USOTC
Colorado Springs, Colo. • June 17, 2011
Just moments after the 2011 USA Men’s U16 Training Camp wrapped up, a new one began, as 20 of the best young athletes arrived at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for the start of the 2011 USA U19 World Championship Team Training Camp.
Led by George Mason’s new head coach, Paul Hewitt, the training camp will extend through Sunday morning when the roster is cut down to 12 members.
“It’s an honor in a lot of levels to be named head coach of this team,” Hewitt said Friday before the camp’s first practice. “It’s a thrill for me to have the chance to coach this team. Every time I’ve worked with USA Basketball (assistant coach in 2006 and 2010), it has been a rewarding experience. The players enjoy it, the coaches enjoy it. To do it again, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy it.”
Once the USA Basketball Men’s Collegiate Committee, led by chair Jim Boeheim (head coach Syracuse University), selects the final roster, the team will continue training at the USOTC through Thursday. From there, it’s off to Panevrzys and Vilnius, Lithuania, for four days of scrimmages and practices before finally touching down in Liepaja, Latvia, site of the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship. The first round of the 2011 U19 Worlds will take place June 30-July 2 in Liepaja and Valmiera, while the second round and finals will be contested July 4-10 in Riga.
“We’ve got to come together quickly,” Hewitt said. “We only have a few days before we head overseas. We’re going to try to keep it simple, be very, very aggressive on the defensive end and try to run the ball up and down the floor and take good shots. I think if we do those things, we’ll be successful.”
Hewitt is joined by assistant coaches Randy Bennett (head coach St. Mary’s College) and Cliff Warren (head coach Jacksonville University). Court coaches for the training camp include Jerry Carrillo (head coach Cochise College), Billy Donovan (head coach University of Florida) and Dan Miles (head coach Oregon Tech).
As for the players, 13 states and 18 different schools are represented among the elite athletes.
“The best players in the country will be out here, so it’s always an honor to have USA across your chest,” said Travis McKie, a 6-7 forward who just completed his freshman season at Wake Forest. “I just want to come in, play hard and do what I have to do to make the team and play for my country.”
In all, 14 of the young men are competing for a roster spot with USA Basketball for the first time. To prepare for a training camp of this scale, the athletes did a number of things to prepare, but the most notable was conditioning.
“My dad, he’s been on the USA team several times,” said Tim Hardaway, Jr., a soon-to-be sophomore guard from Michigan. “He just told me we’ll do a lot of conditioning; that they’re looking how you get up and down the court, how your wind is.”
McKie, a 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference All-Freshman Team member, took things a step farther, training in Colorado for several days prior to camp.
“I did what I normally do but picked it up,” he said. “I started working out six days a week. I came out here a week early to get used to the altitude (6,200’ above sea level) and work out here. I did everything I could to put myself in the best position to make the team, so here goes nothing.”
Trevor Cooney, who competed for the 2010 USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team that won gold, is one of the six who has prior USA Basketball experience, and hopes that the familiarity gives him a little bit of an edge.
“I think it definitely gives me a head start,” the 6-3 guard, who will attend Syracuse in the fall, said. “I kind of know what it’s about and how to play as a team and come together like a team. Maybe that will give me a little edge.”
Between skills camps, AAU ball and competing around the country, many of the players are already familiar with each other to some degree. But with so many schools being represented, it will be a change to compete on the same team, for some.
“It’s going to fun to be with all of these guys, but it will be hard at the same time,” Hardaway said. “Guys like Keith Appling, you know we’re Michigan-Michigan State, so that’s a rivalry right there. We’re just out here to have fun and try and make the team. Whatever happens, happens.”
No matter what happens, though, these players understand that it is an honor to be among the 20 invited to compete for a spot with the USA U19 World Championship Team.
“It means a lot,” Hardaway said, “If you ever have the opportunity to do this, you need to take advantage of it, because a lot of kids take this stuff for granted. Just the opportunity to come down here and getting the chance to play, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Added Cooney: “It’s the biggest honor in basketball, I think, that anyone can receive.”