Okafor accepts final spot on Olympic squad
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The chance to win an Olympic gold medal just months after an NCAA title was too good for Emeka Okafor to turn down.
Okafor was officially named to the U.S. Olympic basketball team Thursday, filling the final spot on the squad headed to the Athens Games.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reported last month that Okafor had been offered, and had accepted, an invitiation to the team.
"I came off a national championship, and now I have a chance to get a gold medal," Okafor said. "That's one of the reasons I jumped at this opportunity. I'm really looking forward to it."
Okafor, who starred at Connecticut, is the only player on the team who has yet to play in the NBA.
"I think his selection is the neatest one," U.S. Olympic coach Larry Brown said. "He's been three years in college and had an incredible career."
Okafor played for the U.S. team in last year's Pan Am Games, bringing some international experience to a young team. The players will be an average of 23.6 years old when the games begin.
"I learned in the Pan Am Games that the international game is played a little different," Okafor said. "They have a great understanding of the game and stick to the fundamentals."
USA Basketball also confirmed that five players previously named to the team -- Mike Bibby, Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O'Neal -- have withdrawn because of injuries or personal reasons.
Brown, who coached the Detroit Pistons to the NBA title last month, doesn't think the absence of veteran players hurts the team.
"I look at it as a great opportunity for the other guys," he said. "It's going to be a huge challenge for us. It's a neat mix of kids who really want to be there that gives us some versatility.
"A lot of the young guys we're talking about have played well in the best league in the world. I'm more excited coaching this group than a real All-Star team. We're tremendously athletic, versatile and have good character."
Anthony shares his coach's enthusiasm.
"When I got picked, it was the most excited I've ever been," Anthony said. "We're a young team. We'll go over there and play energized."
Anthony also played down any rivalry with Olympic teammate LeBron James.
"We've got a chance to show everybody we're not rivals," he said. "We can play together whenever the time comes."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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