Put On For My Country
Recapping the 2009 USA Basketball Showcase.
In between the NBA Summer League and countless AAU tournaments that Las Vegas has to offer, it has become a hotbed for the USA National Team over recent years. While the top names were happy to have a summer vacation of sorts, 20 of the finest young players duked it out for the four prospective slots that remain on Team USA for what could ultimately be the 2012 Olympic team in London. With buku stars already on the squad, the last four spots will ultimately be filled by players who fit a certain niche needed by the team. Here’s a look at the top ballers that put their stuff on display for Jerry Colangelo, Coach K, and the rest of the USA Basketball Committee:
– The leading scorer of the game was the Memphis Grizzlies Rudy Gay, who finished with 27 points. The slasher extraordinaire could simply not be contained in the half court set. He got to the rim driving both left and right, hit a number of tough midrange pull-ups, and played really solid defense. What makes the Baltimore native really attractive as one of the last fits for Team USA is that with his added strength and toughness, he is able to play (and defend) both forward positions. If we all remember, Coach K often opted to play either LBJ or Melo at the four spot last summer, something that Gay could easily do if need be.
– The other Grizzlie in the game, O.J. Mayo, showed the good and the bad that we saw in him during his pre-NBA days. As for the good, the guy played super hard, shot the lights out of the ball, and could get his shot off against any guy you threw at him. West Virginia’s finest made three straight three-point bombs on consecutive possessions. He then missed two three-pointers in a row on the following two trips down the court. The bad with Mayo completely centers around his questionable shot selection (though it has improved in the past). If he were to make Team USA, Mayo would have to accept the role of being a spot-up shooter. Based on his past it may seem as if this newfound role may be a tough one for Mayo to accept, although he has shown incredible growth in terms of maturity since his days of dominating the prep scene.
– The oldest player in the group, Kyle Korver, finished as the game’s best shooter from the perimeter. He proved he could be a shooting specialist for Team USA with his ability to drill Js off of curl screens, off the bounce, and with his feet set. Everyone knows that he doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of D, so him getting torched was not a big surprise. If the team opts to go with a pure shooter from the shorter International line for one of the four spots, the ex-Creighton star is the go-to guy.
– ‘07-08 Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant did exactly what we thought he’d do: put points on the board. He seemed like he was playing the game in slow motion with how effortlessly he was able to get his shot off. Many in attendance wondered how KD would mesh with the big stars on Team USA, considering the lanky wing’s tendency to fire shots left and right. In terms of pure talent, there’s no doubt that he’s the guy. But if you’re looking for the best fit, you might have to take a second thought on him.
– The top defensive player of the game was the Utah Jazz’s Ronnie Brewer. Though he finished with a modest 11 points, the crazy job that he did on the defensive end could not be shown in the stat sheets. Brewer showed the quicks to say in front of players from all three perimeter positions with his crazy length and ability to move his feet. Looking at the form in his jumper is still nasty, but he hit a number of mid-range J’s and brought the house down with a *sick* reverse alley-oop. Brewer definitely has to be the favorite to land a spot if the brass up top chooses to keep a defensive specialist.
– A close runner-up for the top defensive player, Russell Westbrook came up with a killer game. He outplayed the bigger-name point guards en route to a 7-point, 4-assist, 3-steal performance. Westbrook’s size and length allow him to guard both guard positions, which is especially valuable against less athletic International guards. The former UCLA Bruin was an intense ball hawk and made as a strong case to be an elite candidate for Team USA.
– With the use of a more traditional true center in FIBA play, the USA squad could use another five to back up Dwight Howard. Brook Lopez of the Nets proved to be the top center in this event. He scored with his back to the basket with either hand, played tough post defense, and showed the ability to score facing the basket. Lopez even stepped out and drilled a three-pointer with the shorter FIBA line. Stanford’s finest didn’t exactly produce a Howard-esque rebounding or shot blocking performance, but his ability to put points on the board makes him a nice Robin to Superman.
– While Lopez got it done from the center spot on the offensive end, Greg Oden got it done on the other end of the court. It’s clear that he’s not “the best center prospect since Lew Alcindor” (as many once hailed him), but he’s still a beast in the paint. Oden showed much better offensive skills (hit a faceup jumper and left hook) then when he terrorized the Big Ten, but has still lost a step athletically with the injuries. If Colangelo opts to go with the defensive presence in the middle, then Oden is the man.
Rodger Bohn is a former director of prep scouting for DraftExpress.