PAN shAM Team Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on July 31st, 2007

As we mentioned yesterday, Team USA’s Pan Am squad got off the plane in Rio and promptly found itself down 0-2 with losses to Uruguay and Panama, which effectively ended any chance for a medal at the tournament. Let’s say that again – Uruguay… and… Panama. If you thought losing to Serbia was bad… Uruguay? This small nation of 3.3M people stuck somewhere in South America between Brazil and Argentina is best known in hoops circles for putting only one player in its history, Ernesto Batista (Atlanta Hawks), into the NBA. As for losing to Panama, what else can be said? They’re known for a corrupt former dictator and an important canal – not exactly backdoor cuts and alley-oops.

Uruguay

This is All We Care to Know About Uruguay

At least Team USA rallied to win their next three games vs. Argentina, the US Virgin Islands and Panama (revenge is ours, Noriega!) to take 5th place at the tournament. (FYI – Brazil was the champion.) The more things change, the more they stay the same… Sigh… Doug Gottlieb writes today that “we stink” when it comes to international basketball, and he’s absolutely, positively, most definitely and completely right on that count:

We are Team USA, and we can not win the gold in any competition. The Pan Am team has not won gold since 1983. The Under-19 team has not won gold since 1991. The men’s national team has not won the world championship since 1994. The last Olympics gold came in 2000. We are the standard bearers for hoops across the globe, but in comparing our own image of how good we are to our overall performance, we stink.

He blames our international woes on the different styles of play and officiating, and no doubt that explains some of it. But from the non-player side of things, we still believe that our AAU-bred emphasis on 1-on-1 play over basic fundamentals such as passing, shooting and help defense is a more significant factor. When we were winning every international competition 20+ years ago, we were still more athletic than everyone else – that part hasn’t changed. What has changed is that the world has gotten significantly better (obviously), but more importantly, the US players have not. More athletic – definitely. More talented at one-and-one play – assuredly. More talented at team basketball – not even close. As Gottlieb suggests and we agree, this problem isn’t going away.

Doug Gottlieb

Gottlieb is a Doppelganger for an Intl. Hoopster

With that tirade over, we wanted to take a moment to look at the stats from the players on this Pan Am team to get some idea of whether any might have breakout seasons in college next year.

Pan Am Stats 3

According to the numbers and coach Jay Wright:

  • DJ White (Indiana) was the class of this team, nearly averaging a dub-dub, shooting 59% and leading the team in steals in only 24 minutes per game. If Eric Gordon is worth half of his hype next year, IU could really turn some heads in the Big Ten and nationally.
  • Wright slurped Roy Hibbert (Georgetown) for his mobility, but we were a little surprised he only managed eight blocks in five games.
  • And what the hell happened to Scottie Reynolds (Villanova)? We could be looking at a second coming of the Human Cannon (aka Dion Glover) here – 21% (8-37 FG; 4-19 3FG) shooting and a boatload of turnovers to boot. Memo to Reynolds – you had a nice freshman year, but just b/c the coach of your school coaches the team does not mean you have the green light on every possession.
  • Speaking of shooting, Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.) and Shan Foster (Vanderbilt) both shot poorly in the tournament, which is unsurprising considering neither is a pure shooter.
  • A pair of Pac-10 players, Derrick Low (Washington St.) and Maarty Leunen (Oregon) seemed to act as solid versatile “glue guys” that are so important for any team, according to Wright.
  • Joey Dorsey (Memphis) made a name for himself when he called out a Uruguayan center named Gregorio Odento and was summarily dunked on (or maybe we’re getting that confused with something else).
  • Guards Wayne Ellington (UNC) and Eric Maynor (VCU) both got hurt early, so we never really got to see what they could do.

DJ White

DJ White Ponders His Senior Year

All in all, it sounds like another uninspiring performance from Team USA. We’re definitely going to be keeping a closer eye on DJ White this upcoming season, though.

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Yippee! Another Silver Medal for Team USA

Posted by rtmsf on July 23rd, 2007

We continue to track the Tim Donaghy saga, and we’re putting together a take on that situation as it relates to sports and basketball in general, but we wanted to make brief mention of the following score from Novi Sad, Serbia:  Serbia 74, Team USA 69.   Yeah yeah, we realize that the Serbs had home-court advantage and it’s probable possible that there were more than one Donaghy running around in FIBA gear out there, but once again a US team went into an international competition against its peers and came home with something less than the gold medal.  In fact, the last time Team USA won the Under-19 competition was 1991, which means that this year’s stars Deon Thompson and Patrick Beverly were still in diapers when we last won this event.

  National Flag of Serbia

All Hail Serbian Dominance in International Hoops

Is it too much to ask that the United States, a diverse country of over 300 million people where among Gen Y basketball is the most popular participatory sport (over 39M youth participants in 2001) , put together a group of the best 19-year olds in the world?  By comparison, Serbia has a total population of just over 10M and a youth population of just under 2.5M (or about the size of the Denver metro area).  So, to recap, we have approximately 16 youth basketball players in the USA for every single one of Serbia’s kids, and we still can’t beat them in the game that we invented and honed in our tried and not-so-true-anymore system designed to produce the world’s best players.

Darko and Friend

How Embarrassing to Lose to These Serbs

If we’re sounding a bit like an old fart, that’s fair.  Sometimes we sure feel like one.  We certainly realize that the world is catching up in hoops, and the days of any Team USA (from the junior teams all the way up to the Kobe-led Senior Team) rolling roughshod over cowering foreigners (see: Frederic Weis below) are over.  But it seems lately that we can’t win any of these competitions, and the same old tired excuses of “different style of play” and “national teams” are falling on our deaf ears.

Vince over Frederic Weis       

Rather, we believe that there’s a serious problem with our shoe-company driven AAU youth system that stresses 1-on-1 play over team basketball.  To borrow from Rick Barry, it is incredibly frustrating to watch an amazing athletic talent and product of our “star system” like Lebron James play the game at such a high level yet still not know how to properly rub off of a basic screen – nobody ever took the time to teach him how to do it!  Unfortunately for the game, fundamentals and team basketball fell by the wayside in the last generation, and we think that fact, more than any other, contributes to our continuing struggles in today’s international competitions.  The thing is, much like our health care delivery system, we never hear anyone within the industry say anything good about the broken AAU system, but rare is the man who actually steps to the plate and offers a viable alternative.

Well, at least we know to expect that Michael Beasley, Patrick Beverly and Deon Thompson will have breakout seasons next year. 

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International Incidents

Posted by rtmsf on July 17th, 2007

The real dog days of summer are here, and that can only mean one thing to hoopheads - international basketball.  Yes, we know that you’ve all missed the trapezoidal lane and goofy emblazoned unitards preferred by our international friends.  Harkening back to the days of our youth when we trotted amateurs out there and still actually won these events, we should take solace in the knowledge that, even though the world has indeed caught us in team basketball, we still own the patent on And1-style showmanship.  If only there was an international competition that allows four steps after picking up your dribble followed by random acts of dancing with the crowd.

Skip to my Lou

A Team USA Led by S2ML Could Win This Competition

The Senior Men’s National Team will get most of the hype this summer (will Kobe play?  will Team USA qualify for the Beijing Olympics?), but there are two other international teams filled with collegians that we’re keeping an eye on – the Pan Am team and the Under-19 World Championships team (see rosters below).   

Pan Am Team USA Roster

 Pam Am Team USA

The Pan Am team (coached by Villanova’s Jay Wright) begins play in Rio de Janeiro on July 25, and at least half of the roster is filled with players who will be NCAA All-Americans next season.  What’s most interesting about this roster is the names of some of the players who were left off the squad.  Preseason first-teamer Chris Lofton apparently counterbalanced global warming all by himself as he froze up the gym with his shooting stroke during the trials and was left home, as were Kansas guards Sherron Collins and Mario Chalmers and Duke sharpshooter Jon Scheyer.  It was also peculiar that Wisky’s Brian Butch was left off the team, as it leaves Roy Hibbert as the only true center available – let’s hope he stays out of foul trouble.  Jay Wright realizes that the four-guard offense that he employed at Villanova was out of necessity, yes?  Nobody asked us, but this team seems heavy on shooters and wings and extremely light in the middle.  That’s probably not a strong recipe to win in international competition against stronger, older and more experienced players.  We’ll see…

Seth Davis gave his insights after watching the trials here.      

Under-19 World Championships Roster

U19 Team USA Roster

The Under-19 Worlds team, coached by the Undertaker, has already won its first five games in pool play heading into a showdown with 4-1 France tomorrow.  K-State’s incoming freshman Michael Beasley (14 ppg; 6 rpg; 70% fg in only 17 mpg) and Davidson guard Stephen Curry (11 ppg; 3 apg; 61% fg) have led a balanced attack for the high-scoring (99 ppg) American squad.  Arkansas guard Patrick Beverly is the only Team USA member earning more than 25 mpg thus far, while Donte’ Green and Damian Hollis appear to be the only two Americans not getting substantial minutes.  From what we’ve seen so far, it appears that Beverly, David Lighty and Deon Thompson are poised for breakout years at their respective schools, while Big 12 fans should just hang on for the one-year ride watching Beasley and DeAndre Jordan perform.  The eight-team medal round begins on Friday in lovely (especially as compared to Rio) Novi Sad, Serbia.

Beasley Team USA

Michael BEASTley

We’ll be checking back in periodically with these teams to see how they finish in their respective competitions and, more importantly, whether any particular player(s) shows what to expect next season. 

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05.30.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on May 30th, 2007

A lot of piled-up news to get to today…

  • The biggest story: Brandon Rush tore his ACL, withdrew from the NBA Draft, will have surgery this week, and will likely be ready to play at KU next season. The 07–08 Jayhawks just got a lot better.
  • Florida A&M’s coach Mike Gillespie was placed on paid leave after his recent arrest on misdemeanor stalking charges. Wait, the FAMU coach is white??
  • Apparently Glen “Big Baby” Davis has slimmed his way to 280 lbs for the NBA Draft workouts… begging the question, why wasn’t he using this regimen throughout his career at LSU?
  • Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were asked to join Team USA – size up your bronzes now, boys.
  • Dane Bradshaw wrote a book (“Vertical Leap“) about his senior season at Tennessee, which of course presupposes that Vol fans can actually read the thing.
  • In an espn.com piece by Pat Forde, we learned that Arkansas is actually paying three head basketball coaches at the same time. Does George Steinbrenner run the Hawgs now? Nah, just the very recently retired Frank Broyles, another senile 80-year old.
  • After years of vile homerism, John Feinstein commits treason in Monday’s Washington Post – Coach K’s dark angels are already moving into the DC area on a seek-and-destroy mission. A must-read for all Duke haters.
  • Oh, and Maryland fans hate Duke also. We particularly enjoyed the Jon Scheyer portion.
  • Some industrious UCLA fans paid homage to uber-scrub Michael Roll in an epic video.
  • Finally, we reserve a moment of silence for the Charlotte Coliseum, the site of many outstanding ACC Tournament battles as well as the 1994 Final Four. It will be destroyed on Sunday.
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