June 15, 2013
The folks at USA Basketball did not waste time Friday in getting busy with tryouts for the Under-19 team that will compete soon in in the FIBA world championships. Players arrived Friday morning in Colorado Springs, and began practicing later that afternoon.
It did not take Georgia Tech’s Marcus Georges-Hunt long to notice something distinct.
Those basketballs that they’re using at the US Olympic Training Center, are, um., odd.
“It’s a lawwwwt different,” Georges-Hunt said after Saturday morning’s practice. “You can’t really grip it like you want to. I kind of got used to it after [Friday] night. I got a feel for it now. It’s really hard to grip, and it’s like an NBA ball. It’s hard to control it.”
“But I’ve played really well, I thought. I brought a lot of energy to my team, encouraged them, played team ball.”
Eh, the perils of a first timer meeting with the international ball.
There are 26 young men trying out for for 12 spots on the U19 team that will be helmed by Florida’s Billy Donovan, and 16 have played previously on a USA Basketball squad. This group arrived in Colorado Springs Friday morning and early afternoon, and were at work on the court within a few hours.
Georges-Hunt’s Tech teammate, Robert Carter Jr., was invited to the USA Basketball training camp last year, so he has familiarity with the ball. That didn’t make his adjustment to altitude better this year than last. Friday’s workout was a grind.
“Last night was pretty tough,” Carter said. “[Saturday], it’s getting better.”
Speaking after the Saturday morning workout and several hours before a late afternoon session, both Georges-Hunt and Carter said they felt like Saturday morning went well.
Carter, a 6-foot-8 rising sophomore from Thomasville, has been working chiefly at power forward, and Georges-Hunt, a 6-6 rising sophomore from College Park, is being evaluated at shooting guard and small forward.
“[Friday], I started out a little slow and I didn’t score the ball as much so I rebounded and played defense,” Carter said. [Saturday morning], I think played better. I made shots, and I still tried to do all the little things.”
Both Tech players are updating their head coach back in Atlanta. “We’ve texted him,” Carter said of Brian Gregory. “I’ll probably text after [getting off the phone].”
Tech is the only school with two players invited for these tryouts, although Arizona forward Brandon Ashley is joined by two future teammates in Wildcats signees Rondae Jefferson and Aaron Gordon.
Between workouts today, the roster will be trimmed to 15 or 16, with final cuts to 12 expected Monday or Tuesday morning. The Worlds will be June 27-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic.
These Jackets may have an edge of sorts by way of familiarity.
“You have to get comfortable as you go because you don’t know what your teammates are going to do, Carter said of the coaching staff’s decision to switch lineups as they’re scrimmaging. “I was lucky this morning because Marcus was on my team.
“I was with [Oklahoma State’s] Marcus Smart, [Uconn’s] Rodney [Purvis, who is transferring from N.C. State], [Tennessee’s] Jarnell Stokes, Elfrid Payton [Louisiana Tech] and [Charleston’s] Canyon Barry. But just because we play together a lot, Marcus and I . . . we know where the other is going to be.”
Truth be told, there are all kinds of familiarity at place out in the Spring. There are all kinds of stories to be told. Barry, for example, is from Colorado Springs, and he had two brothers play at Georgia Tech – Jon and Drew Barry.
Many of these players have competed against each other for years, dating back to early AAU days.
Atlantan Shaq Goodwin, who plays now for Memphis, is in the camp, and the ACC is represented by Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, Virginia’s Mike Tobey and Devin Thomas of Wake Forest.
“We have a good time,” Carter said. “A lot of it is everybody talking about AAU and stuff like that. We laugh about things that happened in games.”
Georges-Hunt said, “We really support each other because it’s the ACC. We don’t really talk smack.”