63 tryout participants invited back for Regional Training Camps

Feb. 12, 2009, 12:07 p.m. (ET)

More than 400 athletes have chased the Olympic Dream at USA Team handball tryouts since October, and today, a fortunate 63 received the news that they have advanced to Regional Training Camps this May. At the same time, a series of new tryout dates and locations have been announced - specifically targeting athletes under the age of 23 years old in Chicago and Houston.     

The 63 athletes invited to the Regional Camps come from 15 states and represent a true melting pot of age, experience and ethnic backgrounds. The U.S. Army, which has one of the nation's oldest handball programs at West Point, qualified the most athletes.   Jesse Weisberg, a 14-year-old soccer and handball player from New York, is the smallest (5' 6") - and youngest - qualifier for regional camps. Orentheus Hutcherson, 32, the oldest, is an experienced track runner who received All-American honors at Florida A&M University. Hutcherson has been to the USA Track and Field Championships five times and at one point was ranked No. 11 in the nation for the 400m hurdles.   According to USATH Technical Director Mariusz Wartalowicz, Hutcherson was the best athlete in attendance overall, with decent handball skills and extraordinary attitude, leadership and effort.  

The tallest of the athletes all played NCAA Division I basketball: Michael Johnson (6'6"), Jordan Fithian (6'7"), Jim Maley (6'8") and Graham Beatty (6'8") would make an imposing front line on the handball court too.   Other athletes grew up playing handball. Frank Flores made the cut; he showcased skills developed as a National Team player in Cuba before legally emigrating to the USA about five years ago. Brothers Ali and Taqi Al-Mubarak were just one of several pairs of siblings to tryout, but the only pair to survive the cut.   Nearly 40 of the Regional camp invitees are 21 years or under - representing the youth movement that is invigorating USA Team Handball's long-term aspirations.  

Regional camps are scheduled to take place Memorial Day weekend for aspiring national team players, who will take the court alongside current National Team pool players for the first time.   Due to the success of the tryouts, USA Team Handball has announced two more events in Chicago (U18 only) and three more events in Houston (U23 only). March 7 and 14, Player Identification Camps will take place in Chicago.

 People born after Jan. 1, 1991, and before Dec. 31, 1993, are eligible to participate. Interested parties should sign up at www.usateamhandball.org/play/tryouts. The deadlines to register are Feb. 28 and March 6, respectively.

Similar events to take place in Houston, Texas, will be announced soon.