Category Archives: USA Basketball

Duke head man Coach K is going for Gold.

Coach K Talks Gold and USA win

Duke head man Coach K is going for Gold.
Duke head man Coach K won his 3rd consecutive Gold Medal as USA trounced Serbia in Rio.

Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski  or Coach K as he is known to many, led Team USA to its third consecutive Gold Medal with a 96-66 win over Serbia in Rio.  That's something no other coach has done to date,  Krzyzewski finished up his USABB coaching career with a phenomenal 88-1 record including a 24-0 mark in Olympic play.  Krzyzewski has now won two world championships, three gold medals and five national titles which puts him in living legend status.  Here is his post gold medal game comments.

Opening statement:

Well, the very first thing, I would like to say that from our entire staff, all the players, the personnel, we want to thank the people of Brazil for putting on an excellent Olympics, and the people of Rio de Janeiro. We were treated fabulously. Like really, I cannot think of one thing, one time that we were not treated at the highest level, and it was an honor to play in this fabulous country and this great city. We beat three outstanding teams in order to win in Argentina, Spain and Serbia, and congratulations to Serbia on the silver medal and Spain on the bronze. I’m just proud of my guys. These two guys are now the top two (Olympic) scorers in the history of United States basketball, and one of them is the top rebounder, too. So, the commitment that these guys – KD doesn’t rebound (laughing). It’s alright, he shoots it pretty well. He actually averaged nine rebounds a game (in his NBA season). Just these two guys, to have two veterans who’ve won it before to serve as the leaders for our team was fabulous.

Can you describe the journey with this team and with your journey as the national team coach?

This team kept getting better and even those three games in pool play, we had not played that type of game against that type of level.  We said it was a learning experience and our guys did learn.  We put it to good practice.  We kept getting better even though it didn’t necessarily reflect in the differential in the score but we were getting better and more knowledgeable.  That’s where I commend the leadership of our veterans for keeping us on course for that.  As far as (his tenure), Carmelo’s been here as long as I’ve been here.  We shared a press conference in Japan in 2006 where after our only loss, he set the tone in that press conference for what was to be one of the standards of our program and that’s collective responsibility.  He didn’t make any excuses.  We took responsibility for the loss and gave credit to the Greek team.  We built on that.  I call it character.  At that moment, sometimes in  a loss, you find out a deep character in someone and that’s what happened with Carmelo in then the commitment from LeBron and Kobe and all these guys, Chris, Kevin, all these guys have great character.  It’s just built to where now we have a great, great culture.

What are you proudest of coaching three different types of teams to a gold medal?

I think the fact that we’ve done with five teams because to me, if Kevin doesn’t do what he did in Istanbul, he might not have done what he did in London.  To me what he did in Istanbul is what he did today.  The coaching staff was saying that.  In fact, he took two shots further than he ever did in Istanbul today.  It’s called the ultimate green light.  You didn’t hear me saying don’t shoot.  What I’ve loved the most about these guys and not just these two but the guys who have made these commitments, they’ve set the example for the younger generation of the United States to where now everybody is proud of USA Basketball.  It’s because not just how they played but how they acted and how unselfish they were.  I’m amazed at these guys.  I’ve learned so much from being around them.  It’s made me a better coach.  This experience this summer has made me a better coach.

How much did coach Tom Thibodeau help you out on the sideline?

Tom is one of the great coaches on this planet. Obviously defense, a lot of people have said that’s what we need. He and Monty (Williams) are amazing. I think having him for these four years, he and Monty have been a blessing to me. To be quite frank, he talks to the team more than I do. Then when I need to interpret something, I’ll interpret some things, I’ll interject something or today’s meeting I cut short a little bit, but it was a good move. It was a good move today (laughs).

Having Tom’s voice there, it’s one reason, I always sit down during the ball game. I’m not a coach who stands a lot, because I got good guys around me. The best guy around me is Jim Boeheim. For 11 years, he and I have been co-coaches for this team. But to have Tibs next to me, yelling, I’ve learned a lot. I think the people in Minnesota are very lucky. His players are going to have … they’re going to be taught the game well. One thing about Tibs, he’s got a great voice, he’s got an unbelievable voice. I said, “If you weren’t a basketball coach, you should have a radio show from midnight to 4 in the morning and you could be saying, ‘This is Tom Thibodeau from Minneapolis.’” That’s what I feel about him.

How does today’s victory rank among your USA Basketball victories?

This ranks just like the others. I’ve been really a lucky guy, collegiately and internationally to be a part of championship teams. I’m just proud of the fact that Jerry Colangelo, when he took over he gave me an opportunity. The way these players have felt, they’ve been given an opportunity to play for their country and you make the most of it. I love the fact that almost a year ago, well, probably seven, eight months ago, we already named Gregg Popovich to take over. So, you have the best guy in the world coach the team now. That says a lot about the program that’s been developed.

With three gold medals, yet you don’t have any gold medals. What do you take home from this?

The main thing is all the memories and for me, seven of my grandchildren were here, out of my nine.  A few of them have been to all three Olympics, what a blessing. The night before the last three games, I had a chance to eat with my grandchildren, my daughters, my wife. For them to share this, a lot of the guys their families have shared this. That’s what I take from this. It’s been a joy. I’ve been so lucky to be given this opportunity.

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Team USA Announces 30 Finalists

 411-300x244COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Kyrie Irving was among 30 finalists for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team announced Monday by USA Basketball, furthering the former Duke star’s quest to make his first Olympic appearance.

The official 12-member 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team roster will be announced later this year.

Duke’s Naismith Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski will once again lead the 2016 USA coaching staff. He will be assisted by Jim Boeheim (Syracuse University), Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams (Oklahoma City Thunder).

Krzyzewski has coached USA National teams to a sterling 52-1 record in official FIBA or FIBA Americas competitions since 2006, while also compiling a 23-0 mark in exhibition games and leading teams to gold medal finishes at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, 2012 London Olympics, 2010 FIBA World Championship, 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship.

“This selection process was difficult from the start, and obviously it is only going to get more difficult as we look to get to the official, 12-man roster,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m excited about the possibilities this team has. Among the finalists, we have multiple players who won gold medals at the Olympic or World Cup level. The roster of finalists features incredible talent, great balance, outstanding leadership, and I believe like we had with our previous teams, this team will have a special chemistry.

“Having a deep, very talented and extremely versatile roster is of critical importance in pursuit of the Olympic gold medal in Rio. All of the players who have been part of the national team program should be recognized and commended for their commitment and contributions, acknowledged for their willingness to do whatever asked and for representing the United States in such outstanding fashion.”

Irving was named MVP of the 2014 FIBA World Cup for his role in leading the U.S. to a 9-0 record and the gold medal. He started all nine games, averaging 12.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, a team-leading 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals. For the tournament, he shot 56.3 percent from the field, 60.9 percent from beyond the arc and 83.3 percent from the free throw line.

 

The West Orange, N.J., native also owns a gold medal from the 2010 USA U18 National Team that plowed through the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship with a 5-0 record. In 20 total games for USA Basketball, Irving has averages of 12.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 56.1 percent from the floor, 51.1 percent from three-point territory and 87.2 percent from the line.

 

After averaging 17.5 points and 4.3 assists in his lone season at Duke, Irving was selected first overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. He was named 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year and has been named both an NBA All-Star and All-NBA selection in each of the last three seasons.

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games will be held Aug. 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Men’s basketball preliminary play will be held Aug. 6-15, with the quarterfinals scheduled for Aug. 17, semifinals on Aug. 19 and the gold and bronze medal games on Aug. 21.

2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team Finalists

LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

Harrison Barnes, Golden State Warriors

Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies

DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans

DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons

Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings

Paul George, Indiana Pacers

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers

James Harden, Houston Rockets

Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz

Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets

Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

John Wall, Washington Wizards

Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder

 

Managing Director: Jerry Colangelo

Head Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Assistant Coach: Jim Boeheim

Assistant Coach: Tom Thibodeau

Assistant Coach: Monty Williams

Liston Wins Gold at World University Games

ListonThe USA Women won Gold today in Kazan, Russia at the World University Games with a 90-71 victory over host Russia in the Championship Game. Duke guard Tricia Liston averaged 8.2 points per game in 13.7 minutes of action, during the tournament. She made 42.9 percent (9-21) of her 3 point field goal attempts and was a perfect eight for eight from the free throw line.

The toughest game for the United States was a 79-78 victory over Australia in the semi-finals. Australia stormed out to a large 1st quarter lead before the United States battled back with tenacious defense to build a 17 point lead. However, Australia wasn’t finished as they mounted a furious comeback and took the lead with less than a minute to play in the game. Crystal Bradford (Central Michigan University) scored the decisive basket with 14 seconds remaining in the game.

The USA was led by Bria Hartley (Connecticut), Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (Connecticut) and Odyssey Sims (Baylor).

In preliminary round play, the USA was not challenged and easily defeating Mali (120-32), the Czech Republic (101-61) and Brazil (105-75). Liston scored 13, 14 and nine points respectively in those three games.

The quarterfinals saw the USA defeat Sweden 103-72. Liston scored 11 points in the victory.

Stanley Johnson: All-American

Stanley Johnson, Photo by Andrew Slater of BDN

Stanley Johnson, a 6'6" wing from Mater Dei, has experienced  quite a bit in the past year. As a freshman, the Fullerton native helped the Monarchs of Mater Dei win their eighth state title, grabbing fifteen rebounds in the state title game against De La Salle. Johnson was named a MaxPreps Freshman All-American.

Last June, Stanley was expected to give a defensive presence to the USA U-16 team as they competed for the FIBA Americas U-16 Championship in Mexico. Although Johnson was the youngest member of the USA U-16 team, he wound up starting the first two games in Cancun, against Brazil and Argentina, respectively, before suffering a fracture-dislocation of his left index finger at 4:03 of the first quarter of the second game, which eliminated his ability to play for the remainder of the tournament. Despite the injury, the 2014 prospect enjoyed representing his country, his time with his eleven teammates, including roommate and friend Tyus Jones,  and scored fourteen points in the opening game against Brazil.

The youngest of five, Johnson gets some of his pedigree and tutelage from his mother, Karen Taylor, who was able to play both forward positions at Jackson State and professionally in France. He wears the number 41 in honor of her, believing that four plus one means grace.

Last month, Stanley, a sophomore, was tasked by Mater Dei head coach Gary McKnight with guarding Duke 2012 recruit, Shabazz Muhammad, at the City of Palms in Ft. Myers, FL. Johnson held arguably the most explosive scorer in the 2012 class to two first-half points by forcing him to use his right hand. This Monday at the HoopHall Classic at Springfield College, he overcame  a sub-par shooting night (3/10 FG) to contribute a team-high fifteen rebounds and nine points, while utilizing his athleticism and physical play to employ solid defense on Christ The King. The night before he won the 2012 Hoop Hall Slam Dunk Contest with an explosive dunk off of a pass out of the bleachers from his senior teammate Katin Reinhardt.

Stanley Johnson spoke afterwards with Blue Devil Nation about a variety of issues, including his experience with USA Basketball, his mother's influence, Duke's recent interest, defending Austin Rivers, and being labeled a team player.

 

 

Talk about the game today. 

It was a really good win for the team. We had a lot of guys get into the game, which is always good. We played really hard and I think it was one of the best games we played this season... and it showed on the scoreboard. I think if we keep playing like we did today,  we’ll be pretty good.

Well, you guys play a pretty competitive schedule.

Playing a competitive schedule makes you play harder because you have the ability to lose at any time. Our coach says that he’s going to schedule us in these competitive games because we play harder in these harder games and he wants to challenge us.

[private]

I guess the long-term benefits would be success in the state playoffs. That’s what you guys are going for.

Yeah, the long-term goals are the state playoffs and trying to win another state title, where we’ll hopefully be more used to the physical and tough competition than the opposition will be. That's the game plan.

What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are getting to the basket and just playing with physical play. I try to be a bit physical out there. My weaknesses are my jump-shot and my ball security. I’ve got to work on that a little bit more. 

And do you work on that in the off-season?

 I work on that all of the time. I do it through the season, all twelve months of the year. You always can get better and so I want to try to get better at everything.

In terms of emulating players, is there a guy you try to model your game after?

I like LeBron because he does a lot of everything. He scores, defends, rebounds, and can pass the ball well too. He gets a lot of triple-doubles.

How tall are you?

I’m 6’6.”

And you have a few more years of potential growth. Do you like his style?

Yeah, I like him because he puts up high numbers. I just like how he can do everything out there. I like that. I want to be an all-around player. 

Which schools are after you right now?

The whole Pac-Twelve, Kentucky, Duke, Auburn, Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, all of the above. All of the schools I’m very interested in.  There are so many schools, I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out, but those are most of them.

How does it break down in terms of those with formal offers and those who have shown serious interest?

Well, I have a lot of offers on the table. I haven’t gotten a chance to go out to colleges and stuff because I’ve been busy with school. I haven’t gotten a chance to get out, but I’m going to try to get out soon, as soon as I can.

Are you planning on doing some visits in the off-season? Well, between the AAU season and the high school season..

 I’ll be trying to visit a lot of colleges and stuff cause that’s when I’ll get a chance. I’ll have my really off period.

Are you a good student? Because you’re articulate, I didn’t know.

Yeah, I’ve got between a 3.3 and a 3.4.  I try to do well in school, but, yeah, during the off season I’m going to try to visit schools.

In terms of a timeline, are you in a rush to decide?

Oh, no, I’m not rushing this at all. I feel like I just want to go through this once. I don’t want to rush this decision because I don’t think anything good comes from rushing a decision. I feel like my recruiting process is just getting started. I want to make sure that everything is even, make sure I really want that school. I don't want to go through the process more than once.

What will you be looking for whenever you do decide?

Oh, well, I live in California, so I like that home feeling of California. My high school coach is awesome. I’d like to have that kind of feeling. 

He's built quite a powerhouse at Mater Dei.

Yeah, they accept me. They like the way I am. They’re cool with me.

They embrace you.

Yeah, they embrace me. So I want that, and I just want it to be good. A good offense and a good defense.

What style of play do you prefer? I really rarely get to see you during the high school season, but I've seen you at camps and in AAU basketball. Do you prefer an up-pace tempo or one that employs more half-court sets?

I like fast-paced, but I can play the half-court system. You know, as a team, we try to do both things and so I feel comfortable in either system. 

You're just trying to win the game, whatever it takes.

Yeah, whatever it takes to win the game. 

Who’s the toughest player you’ve faced so far?

Oh, Austin Rivers. 

Austin Rivers?

Yeah, I had to guard him last year at the City of Palms. He was an absolute killer.

This gentleman that I respect was telling me that you did a tremendous job of guarding Shabazz Muhammad this year.

Oh, Shabazz. I guarded him pretty well. I think he only had like 16 on me for the whole game, but then I came out in the middle of the fourth quarter and he got some points at the end. But Shabazz, he’s really good. He’s strong left-handed and his right is alright, so my coaches were telling me to stay on his right. "Just stay on his right." Make sure he goes right and then I just got the opportunity. I mean, he’s my size. He’s got my athletic ability, so I tried to make him go right every time. I tried to slow him down a little bit and then when I came out of the game, he got some more points.

Sort of on the same topic, but how would you assess your defense at this time in general?

I feel like I do a lot of agility drills and I feel like my feet are on point. I feel like, with my quickness, I can guard anyone from a one to a four. Fast or small, big or tall. (laughs)

And can you go back to that matchup with Austin one more time?

Austin could do everything, I mean, I couldn’t find a weakness with him. I played him left and he hit a floater off of me. I played him off and he hit a jumper over me. I played him tightly and he drove right by me. He hit the mid-range. He was doing everything. 

He’s tough to defend.

Yeah, yeah, he’s good.

Speaking of Austin, what's Duke’s interest level in you and what do you know about the program?

I know that the program is known for winning and that’s what I like to do so that right there is automatic interest. I heard Coach K is a really good coach. I see them on TV all of the time. I want to step into a good situation. I don’t want to step into some easy situation and I don’t think they’d expect it. I see them recruiting high level players all of the time. I don’t want to step into an easy situation, I want to step into a situation where I’m going to have to work. I don’t want to walk into a place where I automatically get a starting position, I want to have to work for it. I know Coach K will give me no slack. I know he won’t give me anything and I like that. 

Some guys want guaranteed early playing time.

Yeah, some guys just want to step into an easy situation, but that’s not me. I want to work for it, I don’t need any guarantees. 

And can you talk about the interest that they’ve shown in you so far?

Yeah, I mean, I’ve gotten letters from them.

From Coach Wojo?

Yeah, I’ve gotten letters from him and I’ve called them a couple of times. He’s always telling me, when you’re ready, I’m ready. So, I mean, that’s really it, really. That’s where we’re at.

 

What was your experience like trying out and ultimately winning a gold medal with USA Basketball?

USA was a different challenge because there were eleven other guys on the team that could do whatever. I mean, they’re the top eleven guys. It was great to play with guys like Jabari (Parker) and Tyus (Jones). So I had to come in the game and do other things like hustle things. But I ended up starting, that was fun. I got hurt the second game, so I didn’t get a chance to play in the championship game, but it was fun. But when I was playing, I really got along with the players.

Who did you get along with best on the team?

Probably Tyus... he was my roommate. Tyus and Kendrick (Nunn), they’re pretty funny guys. 

 

In terms of position, I put down that you could either be a three or a two, depending on how you develop. What do you feel is your best position?

I like to think of myself as a three, but I can play the two. 

Well, if you like LeBron, you gotta learn to play the three.

(laughs) Yeah, I like to play inside a lot, I like to play in the low-post, and I like to use my body for rebounds. I like to use my body against smaller defenders on the low-post. When I go against bigger defenders, I like to face-up and just shoot right over them. I like to be able to do both things and I try to work on both.

Your mother played at Jackson State. Can you talk about her influence on you with the game?

My mother, she really knows the game, so when I was growing up, I had a coach in my house so I didn’t really have to go far to ask for questions.

So that’s definitely an advantage that you had.

Yeah, definitely. She got me right from the beginning with a ball in my hand because she was a European player as well. It happened prior to the WNBA. 

In France.

Yeah, because there was no WNBA at the time. 

That’s impressive. Now, what position was she?

She was a three and a four. She was able to play inside and out. 

So, she really does know where you should be.

(laughs) Yeah, she doesn’t let me get away with anything. 

You can’t get by on her. 

No, I can’t mess around. (laughs)

 

What would you like people to know about you away from the court?

I’m really goofy. If you ask any of my teammates, I’m always laughing. I’m always making jokes. There’s really no dull moment around me. 

So, you like to keep people entertained?

(laughs) Yeah, yeah.

I heard you visited New York yesterday and I’m not sure if you visited the Hall of Fame, but if so, can  you talk about those two experiences?

We actually went all around town. We went to St. John’s for a little bit. I saw the campus and I got to play a little bit on the courts there. That was really cool. That was fun, but we only got to spend one night there. It was quick. 

I’m from NY so I was interested where you went. I'm sure Coach Lavin was happy to let you guys use their facilities. Someone was describing you as being a really good "team-player" because for certain teams, you bring defense, other teams you bring scoring, you really bring whatever is needed. Do you feel that’s a good description? 

Tonight, unfortunately but obviously, nothing was falling for me. So, I just tried to do whatever I could.

Well, you were three for ten from the field tonight, but you had fifteen rebounds and played good defense.

I feel like could play with a lot of players because I feel like I can bring it, especially with the USA team I have a different role than I do with the Oakland Soldiers.

So, you’re very comfortable with different roles, wearing different hats?

I feel like I can rebound. I'll grab the ball when the shot’s not falling. I can get steals. I feel like I can play with great players, not-so-great players, and just high school players. 

I heard you picked 41 because you wanted to pick 5 for your mother but that number was taken this year and that you wanted to pick 5 because not only was it your mother’s number, but it also meant grace. Are you going to switch to that next year when it becomes available?

Yeah, my mom told me four plus one means grace. So, my Mom, well, she’s a minister.  I’m a Christian and so I believe in God. I believe in all the things about Christianity..the number 5 and the number 7, things like that. It’s encouraging to think that I have grace.

I hadn’t heard that before. When I was trying to do research on you, it was unusual. Thank you very much.

No problem, man. [/private]

Dakari Johnson: Jolly Giant

BDN Photo Dakari Johnson

At 6'10" and 260 pounds, Dakari Johnson can't play in the shadow of many people, but behind St. Patrick's star player Michael Gilchrist, he was able to have a relatively smooth and productive freshman season, incrementally improving month by month. The rising sophomore ultimately averaged nine rebounds and three blocks per game, while playing against elite-level high school competition, starting six games for USA Today's number two high school team in the country. Johnson was named ESPN Rise's National Freshman of the Year for his significant contributions to the national power Celtics.

His talent and height are not necessarily an unexpected blessing. His mother, Makini Campbell, is 6'5" and played college basketball at Long Island University, while his father, Thomas Johnson is 6'10" and played for St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY.

This wasn't Dakari's first experience playing varsity basketball. At Sayre Middle School, he played varsity basketball in Lexington, Kentucky, where Dakari and his mother had moved for a few years. This year, the Brooklyn native achieved a 3.7 grade point average in the classroom, while his mother was hired at St. Patrick's as an English teacher, when a position became available during the school year.

In a critical match-up against eventual National Prep champion St. Thomas More and their star center 6'11" Andre Drummond, the Brooklyn freshman stepped up his game, scoring twelve points and grabbing nine rebounds in a 73-61 win. After playing a vital role on his 26-1 Celtics team, the fifteen year-old manned the middle for a Gauchos AAU team in desperate need of an interior presence. Johnson will, however, be sidelined for the foreseeable future with a sprained ankle suffered during the LeBron James Skills Academy, where he was one of the youngest participants.

In June, the 2014 prospect competed as part of the USA Basketball's Developmental National Team in Colorado Springs. Despite ultimately not getting selected for this year's 16U team, Coach Showalter had very complimentary things to say about Dakari's long-term potential and future with USA Basketball. One big decision on the immediate horizon for Johnson is whether he will return to St. Patrick's following the departure of long-time Celtics head coach, Kevin Boyle, who left to take a similar but more financially lucrative position with Montverde Academy in Florida.

Recently, Dakari, a friendly and precocious young man, spoke briefly with Blue Devil Nation about his USA Basketball experience, Kyrie Irving, and embracing his role as a low-post big man.

Can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself away from the court?
Away from the court? Oh, I'm just a funny person who likes to just hang out with my friends and just chill.

What about your year at St. Patrick's and where are you going from here?
My year at St. Patrick's was very good. I was the only freshman on my team.
Did you feel like a rock star with all of the attention? 
(laughs) No, I didn't feel like a rock star, but I just had to play a role and you really feel like you develop month by month. Yeah, I think I came along at St. Pat's. Since we played in competition, I tried to raise my level of play. I think it really got me better. 

[private]
Are you a really good student? I know your mother teaches English... Do you know Mr. Konchalski?
No, no… Oh, you mean Tom. Yeah, I know Tom.
I'm sorry. I always call him Mr. Konchalski.
(laughs)
So, are you a good student?
Yeah, I'm a very good student. I have a 3.7 average.

Are any colleges expressing interest at this point?
Oh, yeah, Syracuse, Georgetown, Kentucky, Villanova, just a lot of them. A bunch of schools.

I assume you're wide open and in no rush to decide at this point, is that right?
Oh, yeah, I'm wide open. No rush. 

Have you taken any visits?
Oh, yeah, I went to Georgetown for Midnight Madness. I took a visit to Kentucky last year and Louisville last year. Yeah, and I took a visit to Xavier last year.

Can you touch on the fact that you actually lived in Kentucky during middle school? You went down for various reasons and you guys came back for employment and basketball reasons. 
Yeah, I lived there.
Because you're a Brooklyn boy too..
(laughs) Yeah, I'm a Brooklyn boy. I was in Kentucky during my middle school years and I actually played Varsity and J.V. 
Wow.
(laughs)
Great competition?
(laughs) No, it wasn't the toughest.

Who do you try to model your game after?
Andrew Bynum.
Andrew Bynum? Yeah, I could see that.
Yeah, Andrew Bynum. He's got long arms and a big body like me. I hope to become like him one day.

How big are you right now?
I'm about 6'11" and 260.

What are you trying to do with your body?
Trying to get stronger, trying to hit the weight room, lose some fat.
Everybody has a trainer these days, do you have a trainer?
Yeah, I got a trainer his name is John.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?
My strengths are being mentally tough and my post play. My weaknesses are my conditioning, but I've gotten better at that really for the past month since I've been training. I'm trying to take some weight off.

That's good. In terms of position, do you view yourself as more of a four or a five?
I wouldn't say I'm a pure five, but, if I have to play the four, I can. I'm very open to either.

Have you tried to work on your face-up game or are you more of a back-to-the-basket guy?
I've been trying to just work on shooting the ball. I want to be able to stay with my strength, but I want to shoot better, so I'm going to work on my face-up game, too.

Can you comment on your mother? Like you, she's also taller than me. She's about 6'5", right?
(laughs) Yeah, she plays basketball. Really, she's alright... I guess. (laughs)

Have you ever played against her?
I've played against her, but I think she stopped about maybe six months ago.
She's busy with all of those English papers.
(laughs)

I know this is a touchy issue, but are you going back to St. Pat's? 
I don't know, I'm not sure, I don't want to comment on that. (laughs)

Can you talk about USA Basketball? You didn't make the team, but I read that Coach Showalter said that of all of the guys there, you had the highest potential long-term. What was it like going through that experience and what did you learn?

USA Basketball was a great experience. I enjoyed going out there and it took some time to learn what USA Basketball was all about. When I went out there, I understood what it was all about and what it would mean to make the team.

What did you guys do out there and can you touch on the bonding?
Well, mainly we had two sessions, the evening and afternoon, we did drills and had scrimmages. We ate in between and really just hung out.

I remember from a couple of years ago Kyle Anderson when he was your age, he was talking about how much of an adjustment it was dealing with the altitude being from the East Coast. He said it was so hard to breathe, he felt like he was going to pass out when he was running.
(laughs) That really didn't affect me that much.
Well, he's more of a guard.
Yeah, it really didn't affect me that much.

Alright, well, what's your relationship like with Jahlil Okafor? Do you view it as a friendly rivalry? You're two of the best players in the class. He said you've known one another since third grade.
No, Jahlil is a good player and we're very good friends. He used to play for the Arkansas Mustangs when we were younger. I've known him for a long time and we have a very good relationship.

I asked him about you and I figured I'd just do the same for you. Who's the toughest player that you've ever gone against?
So far, probably Andre Drummond.
I was actually at that game.
Oh, yeah, that was packed. You could barely get a seat (laughs), but, yeah, he was a very good player. 

I thought you played really well that day, so did he. Do you know Kyrie? Do you have any relationship with him? And what was your reaction when he was announced the #1 draft pick?
Oh, yeah, I know Kyrie. I've talked to him a few times. I'm happy that he's made it to the NBA.

Before you were talking about conditioning..what you are you doing to improve on it and what about explosion, too?
I've just been working out with my trainer and I stayed at his house for about two weeks and we did arms and legs.

It looks like it's paying dividends in your shoulders.
(laughs) Oh, yeah.
Is he in New Jersey?
Oh, yeah, he's in New Jersey. I just do a lot of weight training and a lot of leg work. 

Did you have a favorite school growing up? Not necessarily what you might like now..
In college? I liked Syracuse growing up because I liked Carmelo Anthony, my favorite NBA player. 

Now at the NBA level, what's your favorite team?
The New York Knicks.
Finally! Thank God, I finally found one guy.
(laughs)

Everybody's a Laker fan or whatever's easiest at the time. Do you like to be a big and have you embraced it? There are some guys that are like 7'1" and are sure that God intended them to be a shooting guard.
(laughs) No, I like being a big, you know, I played that role all my life, so...sometimes I'll hit a 15 footer, but I think I need to concentrate on my low-post skills.

Mr. Konchalski, for example, thought that it was very advanced of you that, at such an early age, you recognized what your bread and butter is, so to speak. You weren't trying to be something that you weren't. 
Yeah, that's not something I'm interested in.

What's your projected size?
My projected size is 7'2."

Wow. Do you have any hard offers yet?
Yeah, Georgetown and Xavier offered me. Those are the two that offered me.
I'm sure that there'll be plenty.
(laughs) Yeah, I haven't really taken any more visits yet. This summer at the beginning of August I'll take some more visits.

And who will be on the trip with you?
Probably my mom or someone else. I'm not really sure yet. We haven't set any dates yet, but I know I'm going.

How have you enjoyed your experience at LeBron?
So far, I've enjoyed it a a lot even though the last few games I'm not going to play because of my ankle. I'm going to see if I can go to a medical doctor. 

What happened? I saw you on the ground. It looked like a tower going down.
(laughs) I went to the basket and someone took a charge down low and I just fell on it.

Thanks a lot, Dakari
Oh, sure, thank you.[/private]

USA holds on to defeat Spain behind Durant

The 2010 USA Men’s World Championship Team fought through adversity,  fended off a second half attack and edged host and defending world champion Spain 86-85 on Sunday night inside the Magic Box in Madrid, Spain. Playing in a raucous stadium filled to its 10,960 capacity, the USA’s charge was led by Player of the Game Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder), who posted game-highs of 25 points and 10 boards, and also had a pair of key blocks in the closing seconds.

Also in double digits were Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls), who scored 13 points, including the game’s final two points from the line; Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers) notched 12 points and nine boards; and Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets) tossed in 10 points.

“This is something I’m never going to forget … never,” said Rose.

“I got to hit them,” he recalled about what he was thinking during his game-clinching free throws. “As your legacy goes on or the way you want your legacy to finally end, this is something that some people are going to remember.”

The U.S., now 3-0 in its three exhibition games, will travel to Athens tomorrow to prepare for its final exhibition game against Greece on Aug. 25 at 7:00 p.m. local (12:00 p.m. EDT live on ESPN).

“Great crowd, two excellent teams playing their hearts out and we felt fortunate to win. We made one more play then they did and that’s how good the game was,” said USA and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski. “We were trying to learn about our younger players so we started a different lineup.

“Before we talk about the outside (players), Lamar Odom should be our starting center. He’s finally into shape I think to play at this level. Curry has been out so we wanted to give him a chance and we already know what Rondo and Granger can do, and Love was out. The doctor wanted to keep him out because of hitting his head and because it’s back-to-back, so that was a precaution. That was our plan tonight, just to take a better look at our team.”

Trailing since the first basket of the game, Spain took its first lead of the night, 82-80, with under two minutes to play on a Felipe Reyes layup. Durant countered to knot the score 17 seconds later and after Ricky Rubio tossed the ball away the U.S. had a shot to pull ahead again, but Odom’s 3-pointer was off the mark and Spain had the ball back.

However Reyes missed his next attempt and Odom secured the rebound. With seven seconds left on the shot clock and 32.99 seconds to play in the game, Rose nailed a driving bucket and the U.S. was back in the lead, 84-82.

Following a Spanish time out, Juan Carlos Navarro was fouled driving to the hoop. He converted on the 3-point play to give his side the lead once again with 27.82 ticks on the clock.

Rose shook off a determined defensive effort by Rubio and was fouled as he drove to the basket. Ignoring the deafening roar of the crowd, he calmly stepped to the line and swished both his attempts with 16.92 to go.

“He made two big free throws and like I told him after the game, those were really big confidence-wise for him and the rest of the team to know that we got a guy we can go to down the stretch,” said Andre Igoudala (Philadelphia 76ers).

Spain again called time, which enabled the hosts to advance the ball to half court.

“We’ve practiced a lot with the zone and we used zone on all under out of bounds which were good. Then from the timeout Jim Boeheim said let’s go orange” said Krzyzewski on what the plan was out of the final time out. “We call it orange with respect for Jim, he said he doesn’t have any buildings named after him in Syracuse so we’ll name the zone after him. I agreed with him, but it was his suggestion and the guys did a good job with it.”

After inbounding the ball, the Spaniards moved the ball around and finally Rubio found room to attempt a 3-point attempt. However, there wasn’t enoughspace as Durant partially deflected the shot. The rebound was bobbled around and Spain came up with it, but Durant was again there to block Rudy Fernandez’ 3-point attempt and the clock expired with the U.S. collecting its third victory in as many exhibition games.

“I just wanted to cover a much ground as I could and help my teammates out,” said Durant about the game’s final possession. “I saw Ricky Rubio open in the corner and I just wanted to use my length to get out there and tip the shot. I was able to get a finger on it and I had the ball and it kind of slipped out of my hand and Rubio got it back and threw it to Fernandez and I just didn’t want to jump and get a foul on a 3-point shot so I stayed down and kind of timed it pretty well and I was fortunate enough to get a block and the game was over. I just wanted to do something to help my team win.”

The USA, which opened up a 16-3 gap to start the game, held a 45-33 lead at the midway break.

Spain charged out of the locker room and in addition to hitting 6-of-7 from the line, knocked down a couple of threes and in the span of almost five minutes, to close the gap to 55-53.

The U.S. came back to life. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder) scored to start the USA on 8-1 run that was capped by consecutive baskets from Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) that left the Americas holding a 63-54 lead. After a pair of Spain baskets, the Americans closed the third quarter’s final 1:05 with a 6-0 spurt to open a double-digit, 69-58, lead with 10 minutes to play.

Plagued by fouls most of the game, the U.S. picked up three quick ones in the first 1:12 of the fourth quarter. Trying to stay out of the bonus and keep Spain off the line, the USA’s defense sagged and Spain battled its way back into the game as the hosts outscored the red, white and blue 20-11 over the opening seven minutes in the fourth and then tied the game at 80-all with  2:37 to play.

The USA had a much better shooting night against Spain than Saturday night’s contest against Lithuania, hitting 48.5 percent (33-68 FGs) from the field, while holding Spain to 41.8 percent (28-67 FGs). However, the U.S., which owned the glass 39-27, sent Spain to the line for 29 attempts and the hosts converted on 24 (.828). In contrast, the American men made 14-of-18 from the line (.778).

Spain was led by Navarro’s 20 points, Marc Gasol had 17, Reyes tossed in 16 off the bench.

“It was a tough game. On their home court. We just fought through adversity and came out with a win,” said Westbrook.

“First off it was a fun game, one of those games that was a learning experience for us, coming over here and playing one of the best teams in the world,” stated Durant.  “I think we made key plays down the stretch and we also played together as a team and stuck together through tough times. So it was a good test for us.”

The 2010 USA World Championship Team assistant coaches are Syracuse University’s Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan and Toronto Raptors head mentor Jay Triano.

All four of the USA’s pre-World Championship friendlies are part of the new Global Community Cup, which will include all USA Basketball exhibition games played outside of formal international competitions.  Along with the games, the Global Community Cup features a social responsibility element that will highlight USA Basketball’s commitment to giving back to communities in the U.S. and abroad.

The official 12-man USA roster that will compete in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, which will be played Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Turkey, must be submitted to FIBA at the technical meeting that normally is held the day prior to the start of the competition.

For photo's and additional coverage visit USABasketball.com