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No Kobe Bryants or Shaquille O’Neals, but U.S. Basketball Team loaded with effort

August 21st 2005

Team US Basketball No Kobe Bryants or Shaquille O'neals effort here

team USA Basketball

BELO HORIZONTE, 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 eyes again.

 

“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.”

Pride representing 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 join?

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 Rafael Araujo.

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 Brazilian fans.

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 opposing players?

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.”

McHone understands 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 the world.

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 chance.

No. Player                     Pos.     Ht.        Wt.

13 Jerome Beasley        F          6-10      224

7 Charlie Bell                 G          6-3        175      

12 Adam Chubb             C          6-10      225

4 Tyus Edney                G          5-10      160

16 Noel Felix                 F          6-9        225

6 Lynn Greer                 G          6-1        175

18 Tang Hamilton           F          6-7        220

15 Kris Lang                  C          6-11      247

11 Aaron McGhee          F          6-8        250

8 Marque Perry G          6-1        180

20 Alex Scales G          6-4        200

10 Ron Slay                  F          6-8        225

17 Isiah Victor   F          6-9        220

Head Coach: 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 Skyforce


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.

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:47 PM