Okafor invited to add power for Athens

Updated: June 23, 2004, 8:32 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

UConn center Emeka Okafor will be invited to fill the final roster spot on this summer's US Olympic basketball team, league sources tell ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

U.S. men's basketball team
As of June 25:
Forward Carmelo Anthony
Forward Carlos Boozer
Forward/center Tim Duncan*
Guard Allen Iverson*
Guard/forward LeBron James
Forward Richard Jefferson*
Guard Stephon Marbury
Forward Shawn Marion
Forward Lamar Odom
Center Emeka Okafor
Forward/center Amare Stoudemire
Guard Dwyane Wade
*Members of U.S. Olympic qualifying team
Okafor is expected to formally accept the invitation shortly, which would complete USA Basketball's season-long odyssey to finalize a 12-man contingent for Athens after numerous pullouts and rebuffed invitations.

USAB's selection committee opted to fill its final roster spot with a power player instead of a perimeter specialist such as Milwaukee's Michael Redd.

Team USA coach Larry Brown had recently pushed for the inclusion of a top shooter like Redd or Rip Hamilton, but Hamilton and Detroit Pistons teammate Ben Wallace declined invitations.

It was believed that Redd was next in line, but the selection committee reversed its position on Denver rookie Carmelo Anthony and invited Anthony to join the squad Tuesday. As ESPN.com reported Tuesday night, Anthony, who had criticized the selection process earlier this month, eagerly accepted.

San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Philadelphia's Allen Iverson are the only original members from Team USA's "core" group of nine players still on the roster. Five players were officially named in the first wave of replacements: Cleveland's LeBron James, New York's Stephon Marbury, New Jersey's Richard Jefferson, and the Phoenix tandem of Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire.

Okafor and Anthony join Cleveland's Carlos Boozer and the Miami tandem of Dwyane Wade and Lamar Odom in the second wave of replacements.

Sacramento's Mike Bibby, Orlando's Tracy McGrady, Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal and the Lakers' Karl Malone are "core" members of the original roster who have formally pulled out for various reasons, be it injury or security fears or simply a desire for offseason rest.

The Lakers' Kobe Bryant, New Jersey's Jason Kidd and Seattle's Ray Allen were earlier withdrawals from the core group, which was assembled during the 2002-03 season in hopes of establishing continuity before heading to Athens.

Shaquille O'Neal, Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, Toronto's Vince Carter, New Jersey's Kenyon Martin and the Clippers' Elton Brand also have declined invitations, with reasons ranging from injuries (Kidd and Brand) to weddings (Garnett and Carter) to childbirth (Allen's fiancee).

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.

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