Men's Residency Players Overshadow Tryout Candidates
By: Maurice Godwin
USA Team Handball Communications Specialist
The current crop of Team USA handballers are making it quite difficult to join them as teammates--which can actually be perceived as a good thing.
On Saturday, July 19, Coach Javier Garcia Cuesta and the men of the USA Team Handball Residency Program welcomed six potential candidates to Auburn, Ala. for a chance to join them in the player pool. The tryout was again held in the Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum on the campus of Auburn University, as was the women's tryout the week prior.
Players traveled from far (one candidate from Oakland, Calif.), very far (one all the way from Alexandria, Egypt), and near (one local candidate from Auburn) to Alabama for the two-session tryout. One candidate currently plays as a member of the D.C. Diplomats club team and won an award in Puerto Rico for his standout defensive play on his hometown handball club. Only two of the six candidates had prior handball experience.
After a morning information meeting in which Cuesta highlighted the fundamentals of the sport and gave a brief overview of his objectives for the tryout, the candidates took the court to meet the current handball players representing the United States. The morning session consisted of passing and defensive drills, fast-break scenarios, and situational gameplay.
After a three hour reprieve, the candidates and current USA players reconvened for an afternoon session of 6v6 scrimmages. The candidates showed marked improvements from the first session and had a few bright moments to impress Coach Cuesta. However, due to Cuesta's previous recruitment success, the current Team USA players' talent overshadowed the majority of the candidates' potential.
The current Residency Program athletes used the tryout to showcase their improvement and desire for international success to Coach Cuesta. Undersized and grossly underestimated, Ian Pinson moved from his normal left wing position to playmaker for the scrimmages and wreaked havoc all over the court. Left backs Nikolas Mukendi and Chris Morgan fired shot after shot into the back of the net with little resistance from the defense. And goalkeeper Alden Mezick impersonated a brick wall between the goalposts in half-court situations.
Recent additions to the Residency Program also gave outstanding individual performances for the visiting candidates to watch in awe. Pivot Alex Recker (Ohio State University Team Handball Club) used his deceptive quickness and impressive footwork to defend and score repeatedly against a tryout candidate that was at least four inches taller. The goalkeepers found right wing Greg Inahara (Portland Sasquatch THC) streaking past his man for countless outlet passes leading to easy fast-break goals. And goalie Moritz Marx (HC Forchheim, Germany) returned to the USA squad with a great defensive performance between the posts.
Coach Cuesta concluded the tryout without adding any athletes to the Residency Program, citing that none of the available candidates showed the specific skills he deemed necessary to improve the team (one candidate was invited but was unable to fully commit to the residency due to military obligations).
The next Residency Program tryout is tentatively scheduled for September.