No Kobe Bryants or Shaquille O’Neals, but U.S.
Basketball Team loaded with effort
August 21st 2005
Brazil -- It seems slightly surreal to consider an 11-point loss to
Brazil in International basketball as a moral victory for the U.S.
national squad. Last week’s 88-77 loss to Brazil in Belo Horizonte was
such a game, however, and a strange realization took place – this should
be the future of U.S. basketball.
The team the U.S.
trotted out for a series of exhibition games in Brazil last week – the
same basic team the Americans is sending to the Dominican Republic this
week for the FIBA Americas Men's World Championship Qualifying
Tournament – is a Dream Team only from the players’ standpoint.
It’s a team fully
stocked with almost-theres, never-weres and several, who-are-these
–guys. The biggest names you’ll find on this team are former Michigan
State star Charlie Bell, and former UCLA point guard Tyus Edney. After
that, the team is deep with players looking to catch NBA executive’s
“We all have similar
paths on this team,” former Oklahoma standout Aaron McGhee said. “We
respect each other and take a lot of pride representing the U.S.”
the U.S.? That’s an interesting take on playing for the U.S. team. Isn’t
this the team U.S. officials have to spend months cajoling superstars to
Despite losing four
of five games in Brazil last week, the team did appear to make rapid
improvements. Mind you, three of the losses were to Brazil, which came
in stocked with NBA players like Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Verejao and
The pivotal game of
the trip came on Aug. 13, when the U.S. took on Brazil in the final of
the exhibition, COPA International Tournament. Coming off an opening
loss to Canada and a narrow victory over an undermanned Argentina side,
the U.S. squad looked prepared to be served up as an offering to the
Down by 20 after the
first half, it appeared the U.S. team was ready to close up shop. But
something interesting happened – the U.S. made a game out of it. By late
in the third quarter, the U.S., behind the three-point shooting of Bell,
got to within six points and kept it about there until the Brazilians
finally pulled away at the end for a 88-77 victory.
Now, twenty years
ago,. A loss to Brazil in men’s basketball would have been an outrage.
Today, however, it was a promising effort. The U.S. players, led by
McGhee and Alex Scales played hard. Very hard. They were battling for
rebounds and showing serious signs of adapting to the more physical
style of play allowed internationally.
“Going down 20
points at halftime, you can always quit,” coach Mo McHone said. “I feel
like we’re getting an extremely good effort from this team.”
Effort? Pride? Hard
work? Who are these guys? This is the U.S., after all. Where’s Kobe
Bryant gliding in from half-court for a spectacular dunk? Where are Tim
Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal to make the paint a zone of death for
Since the original
Dream Team, which included Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and
Charles Barkley, the U.S. stars have slowly gotten disinterested in
representing their country. Their schedules are already full, they say,
which also translates to “I can’t risk my multi-million-dollar salary
getting injured while playing for free.”
that and thinks that with the internationalization of the NBA, soon
other countries will face the same dilemma.
“Brazil has some
outstanding players,” McHone said. “But we’ll see when guys like Leandro
start getting $50-million contracts and shoe deals. We’ll see if they
are still as excited to play for the National team.”
Right now, the U.S.
team isn’t worth $50 million as a group, including coaches and the
airplane that will fly them to the Dominican Republic. But watching them
play is eye-catching – these guys are out there actually trying.
There are problems,
of course. The team is not very good rebounding, and shot blocking is
virtually non-existent, and the team often played out of synch. Such
things are a little more understandable, however, when you realize it’s
a team that has only actually been a team for less than three weeks.
“This was training
camp for us,” McHone said. “I could care less what the scores were as
long as we were improving.”
The current U.S.
team consists of players who last played professionally on teams in
Russia, Korea, Greece, Italy, Yakima, Sioux Falls and Spain. This is a
hungry team that knows they have something to prove, both to the NBA and
This is what the
U.S. Basketball team should be now, however. Face it, it’s starting to
get troubling to watch our NBA stars represent the U.S. and it’s not
like they are unbeatable anymore.
It’s time to forget
about guaranteed gold medals and time to start reveling in a team that
plays hard and with pride. It’s not a given that the U.S. will qualify
for the World Championships next year, but that’s fine.
The U.S. team is a
bunch of hard-working guys looking for a second chance. This represents
the United States much better than million-dollar athletes worrying
about injuries and camera angles. It’s time to give these guys their
Player Pos. Ht. Wt.
Jerome Beasley F 6-10 224
Charlie Bell G 6-3 175
C 6-10 225
Tyus Edney G 5-10 160
F 6-9 225
Lynn Greer G 6-1 175
Tang Hamilton F 6-7 220
Kris Lang C 6-11 247
Aaron McGhee F 6-8 250
G 6-1 180
Alex Scales G 6-4 200
Ron Slay F 6-8 225
Isiah Victor F 6-9 220
Mo McHone, USA Basketball Assistant Coach:
Dennis Johnson, Florida Flame Assistant Coach:
Joey Meyer, Tulsa 66ers Athletic Trainer: Keith Jones,
Houston Rockets Team Physician: Stephen Foley, Sioux Falls
William K. Wolfrum is a freelance writer based in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
His work has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers
and Web sites.