One Nation Under a Hoop
adidas called out for the world’s best. Players answered in a host of languages.
by DeMarco Williams
Over the weekend, adidas held a tournament in Dallas and the world came out for it—literally. Aptly stamped “Nations,” the four-day set pitted the hardwood’s best from the USA against may of the top players from spots like Canada, Croatia, China, Columbia and Chad.
Somewhere, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is smiling widely.
Somewhere else David Stern is equally gleeful, for in a few years he knows his league won’t miss a step when a few of these participants enter the NBA Draft. From the camp’s earliest action on Wednesday and Thursday, certain players just stood above the rest. Yeah, a lot of that had to do with guys standing 6-11 or 7-0. But in the cases of ballers like Canada’s Cory Joseph, Europe’s Evan Fournier, Africa’s Brandja Sy and Latin America’s Christian Cortes (he’ll be profiled in a later post), it was their respected games that didn’t get lost in transition.
Not to be outdone by their international guests, the two teams repping the U.S.—one a national team of high school seniors; another of juniors—came to play. The younger squad actually had a mature strut about it all tournament-long. LeBryan Nash (Dallas, TX), a very solid player with a Ron Artest look and demeanor, walked with the most confidence. Not far behind though were guards Kevin Ware (Conyers, GA), Nick Johnson (Gilbert, AZ) and Jeff Teague’s younger bro, Marquis (Indianapolis, IN). The team was good enough, in fact, to advance to the camp’s consolation game. But even with Nash’s 14 and 11 and Teague’s 12, they couldn’t snatch third place from Team Europe.
As for Saturday’s championship, it was Pool A leader Team USA 2010 against Pool B head Team Canada. On paper, a hometown smackdown appeared inevitable, what with touted names like Josh Smith (Kent, WA), Jared Sullinger (Columbus, OH) and Jordan McRae (Midway, GA) in U.S. jerseys. But Canada (3-1 entering the final) had defied odds the whole time it was in Texas. Sparked by the camp’s leading scorer and breakout star, Cory Joseph, our neighbors to the north were up to the challenge.
The contest started out like most expected: Team USA would let the 6-3 Joseph get his Stephen Curry impersonation together while clamping down on everyone else. Ahhh, but the Reggie Theus-coached Canadian squad mixed things up, relying on complimentary guards Brady Heslip and Nick Stauskas to score some buckets too. The Drew Neitzel-like Heslip grooved to the tune of 25 points on a camp-high six threes.
But while Team USA had its struggles with Canada’s three-headed guards, the homeboys did their will on the interior. Smith and Sullinger were the primary forces underneath. Sullie’s game started out pretty flat, but by the time the second half began, his feet had gotten lighter and his hunger for loose balls had gotten ridiculous. Still trying to figure out how his stat sheet ended up with just 22 and 10 on it. That can’t be right…
…Nor can the 78-78 score with five minutes left in the fourth. The U.S. had Sullie, Smith, Jordan McRae, Ryan Harrow (Atlanta) and Justin Martin (Indianapolis). Canada’s got Joseph, Heslip, Stauskas and, well, that’s about it. It’s amazing they stayed in the game the way they did. Props go out to Joseph for putting the team on his modest frame and leading it with 33 points, 6 boards and 6 assists. Too bad for him he was also 3-6 down the stretch from the line. Final: Team USA 85, Canada 83.
Jordan McRae, one of the central reasons USA took home the ’09 adidas Nations crown, got at SLAM just moments after the impressive victory…
SLAM: I’m guessing you’re happy with how the weekend turned out.
Jordan McRae: It was a great weekend. You can go to any camp in the United States and play against the best players here. But playing against the best players in Europe, Africa and Asia is a great experience.
SLAM: On a personal level, how do you think you stacked up?
JM: I think I did aiight. You got a team full of scorers. So, I think I did good.
SLAM: You’re going to Tennessee after this senior season. What did you like about Knoxville so much?
JM: I mean, they play my type of game. They run. They push. I don’t like to walk the ball up the court.