Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Final candidates for Colorado Springs revealed
The Under-19 national team trials next month should offer a glimpse of what could be expected next season for key players and their teams hoping to make the 2010 NCAA tournament.
On Wednesday, USA basketball announced the 17 players who, on June 16-18 in Colorado Springs, will try out for the 12 spots on the team that will compete for the FIBA title in New Zealand later in the month. Pitt's Jamie Dixon will be the head coach, assisted by Purdue's Matt Painter and Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery. Syracuse's Jim Boeheim is the junior national team chairman and will coordinate the selection of the team.
Wake Forest's Al-Farouq Aminu, who would have likely been a lottery pick had he decided to declare for the NBA draft, headlines the list of invitees. By the time the trials start, his Demon Deacons will know whether point guard Jeff Teague will be back next season. The deadline to withdraw is June 15.
Aminu should have no problem making the USA team, but what he does on the squad could be a strong indicator for next season. Aminu was more of a passive player a year ago, hardly assuming a leadership role on a squad with Teague and James Johnson. With the USA squad, Aminu must show he can take on more responsibility, not just score the ball. He will be expected to do much more for Wake Forest next season.
Connecticut's Kemba Walker is also expected to make the squad. His role will also dramatically change next season on the Huskies. Gone is A.J. Price, so Walker will not only be the starting point but the unquestioned leader on the team. Jerome Dyson is coming off knee surgery and the Huskies won't have the same toughness in the post with Jeff Adrien's departure. Walker will have to be much more assertive in all facets of the program, so taking on that kind of role with Team USA will be imperative. Walker was the MVP of last season's U-18 team that won the silver medal at the Americas championship in Argentina, averaging 13.4 points and five assists a game.
The other 15 players trying out for the team all have high expectations:
Dominic Cheek, Villanova: He is a part of a heralded freshmen class entering the Main Line campus. If the 'Cats are to win the Big East -- and they will be favored to do just that -- Cheek will likely be a key element.
Drew Gordon, UCLA: Gordon was in and out of the UCLA lineup as a freshman last season. Alfred Aboya is gone and the Bruins will need a consistent post presence, and Gordon has as much chance as anyone on the squad to make sure he's the one to produce.
Kenny Boynton, Florida: Now that Nick Calathes is off to Greece, the Gators will need the high-profile freshman to be a playmaker (along with returnee Erving Walker) from day one. Boynton will have to score, too. Making this team will be imperative for him to get necessary game experience before the fall.
Darryl Bryant, West Virginia: Joe Mazzulla is indefinitely suspended and that means Bryant, who played significant minutes last season at the point, will be asked to do even more at the position. The Mountaineers are expected to challenge Villanova for the Big East title. Whether or not that happens could depend a lot on how Bryant runs the team. Making this squad could go a long way toward enhancing his confidence.
DeAngelo Casto and Klay Thompson, Washington State: The Cougars were primed to still be a thorn in the Pac-10 had Tony Bennett stayed as coach. Ken Bone had been a hit at Portland State, but how much he changes with the Cougars will be interesting to watch. Having two Cougars players try out for this squad speaks volumes of where Bennett left the program in Pullman. Two years ago, Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver were teammates on a USA All-Star team and their experience on that team led to the Cougars ultimately making the Sweet 16 the ensuing season. Casto and Thompson aren't likely to do that, but if they were both to make this team that would certainly carry plenty of weight into a Pac-10 season that looks wide open beyond Cal and Washington.
Seth Curry, Duke: The Blue Devils' staff is hoping Curry can make this squad to get game experience. He won't get any next season. He's sitting out after transferring from Liberty. Curry is one of the most talented players on the trials list. But he was at Liberty and now the issue will be whether he can prove, like his brother Stephen did, that he can compete with some of the best players in his age group on a neutral floor.
Gordon Hayward, Butler: Howard led the Bulldogs to a surprising renaissance during what was supposed to be a transition year. Butler was a top-25 team that once again made the field of 65. But now the expectation will be on Hayward and the Bulldogs to live up to the hype and be a top-15 team next season. How Dixon wants the team to play might have a role in if Hayward makes the squad. In making the offense flow, he can be a vital piece on the team.
Darius Miller, Kentucky: Let's see
Miller returns to a Kentucky team that just added John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton, and returns Patrick Patterson and might also get Jodie Meeks back. So how should Miller get himself noticed? Make this team. If he does that, he's a got a great shot to grab John Calipari's attention.
Arnett Moultrie, UTEP: The Miners lost to Oregon State in the finals of the College Basketball Invitational, don't get Stefon Jackson back and are likely behind Tulsa and Memphis heading into next season in Conference USA. If Moultrie could make this squad, he might gain enough experience to make this a reloading season in El Paso, not a rebuilding one.
Ralph Sampson III, Minnesota: The Gophers were the shocker in the Big Ten, beating Louisville early in the season and then sustaining the success to earn an NCAA berth. Now come the expectations that the Gophers should be a top-25 team and in the NCAAs yet again. Because of his name, Sampson III has had to deal with living up to hype ever since he started playing hoops. Standing out on this squad would be a way to separate himself and give Minnesota a needed lift heading into the season.
John Shurna, Northwestern: Last season, the Wildcats were a win or two away from earning their first-ever NCAA berth. It's hard to pinpoint one thing that went wrong, but one thing is certain: Kevin Coble could use more help. If Shurna can make shots for the USA team, he should be able to do it in Evanston next season.
Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas: The Jayhawks are one of the three favorites for the national title. But too often last season there was a reliance on Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Taylor has the talent to stand apart. If he can star on a team like this, it would do wonders for his confidence.
Howard Thompkins, Georgia: Mark Fox is attempting to rebuild the Bulldogs, but he needs a star. The one he has is Thompkins. If he can make this team and produce, UGA will have an anchor to survive in what should be a rugged SEC East. Georgia will be picked last in the six-team division, but Thompkins has a chance to give the program hope that it can be more than just competitive.
Terrico White, Ole Miss: White investigated whether or not to declare for the NBA draft. After conferring with head coach Andy Kennedy, he ultimately decided against doing so. He was a star for the Rebels in the absence of the injured Chris Warren, who is expected back from his ACL injury. If White elevates his game and Warren is healthy, the Rebels may have the top backcourt in the SEC West. White making this team would help give this team a bit more pop heading into the season.
• Gonzaga's Mark Few, Michigan's John Beilein, Arizona State's Herb Sendek, Missouri's Mike Anderson and non-Division I coaches Johnny Estelle of Navarro College and Alan Magnani of Iowa Wesleyan College will be the court coaches during the two days of trials for the U-19 and World University Games teams June 16-18 in Colorado Springs.
• Speaking of the World University Games, South Florida's Dominique Jones was added to the tryout roster on Wednesday. Jones averaged 18.1 ppg for the Bulls last season. He will be looking for a spot on a team of 12 that will compete in Serbia in July.
• Give Utah a ton of credit. The Utes are getting teams to come to Salt Lake City for marquee nonconference games. Utah played Gonzaga and LSU at home this past season, winning both games and helping its NCAA résumé. This season, the Utes have pulled off a coup by getting Michigan (Dec. 9) and Oklahoma (Dec. 12) to come to Utah (the OU game is the return of a home-and-home). The Utes, who could have another shot at an NCAA berth, are also in the Las Vegas Invitational with Bradley, Illinois and Oklahoma State at Orleans Arena.
• Kentucky incoming freshman Daniel Orton will be one of a number of high-profile players working out with stealth San Francisco trainer Frank Matrisciano this summer, according to Orton's older brother Terrence, who is working out with Matrisciano. Matrisciano's specialty is challenging the muscle groups in an unpredictable manner, using natural weights of sand and water as well as working out in uneven soft surfaces like sand and soft wood. Terrence Orton said his brother will be in San Francisco from the second week of June until August.
• Memphis coach Josh Pastner is going to do just fine in recruiting. He needs a full year to recruit for himself after years as an assistant, but Pastner finally got one of his own in landing recruit Latavious Williams on Tuesday. It's no surprise that Pastner went to his well, recruiting his native Houston to nab an important recruit. Williams is from Starkville, Miss., but committing past the May 20th signing date means the player isn't bound to the school.
• New Orleans coach Joe Pasternack is hoping for some good karma in his opening game at Georgia. Billy Humphrey, who sat out last season at UNO, has a chance to go back to his former school and shine.
• From my colleague Dana O'Neil: Expect Jay Wright to announce Villanova graduate and current New Mexico assistant Chris Walker as his new assistant coach in the near future. Though the deal isn't finished yet, a source told ESPN.com that Walker will be hired to replace Pat Chambers, who left Villanova last month to become the head coach at Boston University.
A 1992 graduate of Villanova, Walker worked as the southwest grassroots director for adidas and head coach of the T-Mac All-Stars in Houston before joining Steve Alford at New Mexico two years ago. Walker started a pipeline from the AAU team to the Lobos. Three of UNM's current players -- Will Brown, Phillip McDonald and Curtis Dennis -- all played for the T-Mac All-Stars in high school.
A former point guard for Rollie Massimino, Walker led the Wildcats in assists for three seasons and made three postseason berths in his collegiate career.