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#STINGDAILY: Playing for the Czech

May 24, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

It won’t be long before Robert Carter Jr. and Marcus Georges-Hunt reach greater basketball heights. Or at least play at a greater elevation.

The Georgia Tech rising sophomores are both among 24 players who have accepted invitations to USA Basketball’s men’s Under-19 World Championship Team training camp beginning June 14.

That’ll be in Colorado Springs, which is 6,035 feet or so above sea level.

That can be a factor. If Carter and Georges-Hunt can master that and play well enough, they may make the team that will play in the FIBA U19 World Championships June 27-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic. Just two other ACC players are on the invite list.

Carter, who was invited to last year’s U18 training camp but did not make the final cut, said the thinner air in Colorado Springs affected him.

“The first day, I started off a little slow getting adjusted to the altitude,” he said. “What kind of separated me from everybody else was the first day. I played exceptional the third day, but … by the third day, they pretty much had picked who they want.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan will be head coach of the Team USA U19 squad. Virginia’s Tony Bennett and VCU’s Shaka Smart will be assistants.

This is the first go-round at something like this for Georges-Hunt.

The 6-foot-6 small forward was one of just two freshmen in the ACC to lead their teams in scoring last season, when he averaged 10.8 points per game, and 9.7 in ACC action. Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan, a Canadian, also led the way for his squad.

Georges-Hunt and Carter are half the ACC players invited to this. Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon, who made the U18 squad last year, and Virginia’s Mike Tobey will join them for some good times, certainly.

This sure isn’t hurting Tech coach Brian Gregory or the Jackets.

“It looks good for our program, and I’m just excited for both of us,” Georges-Hunt said. “I’m looking forward to learning different things, learning more about the game, different styles.”

Marcus doesn’t seem to think the altitude in Colorado Springs will be a factor for him. He’s worked himself into fine condition, he believes: “I just having to prepare myself by getting in better shape and keep doing the things that I’m doing.”

The training camp roster is made up of one rising college junior, Tennessee’s Jarnell Stokes, 17 rising college sophomores, four graduating or just graduated high school seniors, and two rising high school seniors.

Depending on perspective, the most notable invitees are Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, whom many NBA-niks figured would enter this year’s draft, center Jahlil Okafor, and forward Justise Winslow.

Okafor is a 6-10 rising senior center at Chicago’s Whitney Young High School. Winslow is a rising senior at Houston’s St. John’s High. They were members of the Team USA U17 squad that won last year’s world championship. Winslow is the youngest invitee; he turned 17 in March.

Eight players from last year’s U18 squad, which won the FIBA Americas U18 Championship to qualify the US for the FIBA U19 World Championship, are invited.

Eight players from last year’s U18 squad, which won the FIBA Americas U18 Championship to qualify the US for the FIBA U19 World Championship, are invited.

Chances are, all the returnees are going to be a little surprised at the sight of Carter.

The 6-8 power forward went west this time a year ago weighing more than 250 pounds. He can’t recall exactly what he weighed then. Carter may not have been chubby, but he was close and he relied heavily on advanced skills because he had to; he couldn’t run like he can now (not that he’s a sprinter, but still).

He’s at 245 now, but more importantly his body mass index is in a better place and with a year of work under the eye of Tech strength and conditioning coach Mike Bewley, his cardio-vascular capacity is greater.

Feel better, and you’re more confident. You’re more confident, and you play better.

“I think I’m in much better shape now than I was this time last year. I’ll probably be able to adapt to the altitude a lot better,” Carter said. “It was a good experience last year. This year, I want to go out there and make the team.”

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