|Rudy Gay shoots during a USA Basketball training session at Quest MultiSport Complex on Aug. 15, 2014 in Chicago.|
CHICAGO -- Rudy Gay is trying to make the most of an opportunity created from circumstance and his perseverance in order to make the U.S. men’s basketball team for the FIBA World Cup, which begins Aug. 30 in Bilbao, Spain.
Gay’s opportunity arose on Aug. 7, when Kevin Durant unexpectedly withdrew from the U.S. squad. Gay, a forward for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and a veteran of the 2010 U.S. team that won the world championship, contacted USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and said he’d like to play.
On Aug. 8, USA Basketball announced Gay was joining the 16-player preliminary U.S. squad. And on Saturday, the U.S. coaches provided Gay a chance to showcase his talents by making him the first player used off the bench in both the first and second half of Team USA’s 95-78 win over Brazil in an exhibition at the United Center in Chicago.
“We threw him right into the fire in playing one of the best teams in the world in Brazil,” U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
In just under 12 minutes of playing time, Gay showed flashes of what he can bring to the U.S. team. He had a strong cut to the hoop for a dunk and used his length on the defensive end to agitate some of Brazil’s perimeter players.
“I’m just trying to do the little things,” said Gay, who finished with five points, two rebounds and two steals. “I’m playing the four (power forward). On defense, I’m trying to get blocks, trying to get steals, trying to get in the passing lanes.”
U.S. center Anthony Davis praised Gay’s game on Saturday night.
“Rudy played well,” Davis said. “He came in and said he wanted to contribute early. He came in and did a hell of a job tonight — rebounding the ball, playing defense, making shots. That’s definitely what we need from him. He’s going to bring it each and every night.”
Gay’s trip to a second World Cup (the event was previously called the world championship) is not yet secure, though. The Americans next head to New York to continue camp and play two more exhibitions: on Aug. 20 against the Dominican Republic and Aug. 22 against Puerto Rico, both at Madison Square Garden. At some point, the U.S. coaches must trim the roster down to 12, though they haven’t said when they will do so.
Krzyzewski said that Gay, prior to joining the team last week, had not played five-on-five basketball all summer. All things considered, Gay said he played “all right” on Saturday.
“I only had two days of practice,” he said. “I was trying to get set, trying to get down, trying to get the calls and trying to get familiar with it.”
After the game, Krzyzewski would not elaborate on Gay’s chances of making the final squad. The message was the same to Gay, who said he received “not too much” feedback from the coaches during Saturday’s game.
“I didn’t get too much out of Coach K,” he said. “We’ll figure it out in practice and work out the kinks. When you get out there, you want to do so well. You forget how much preparation goes into it.”
Gay is hopeful he will be on the final roster for the World Cup, but he said he wouldn’t let the possibility of not being selected deter him.
“Hopefully I’m out there, and I’m going to do as best as I can,” Gay said. “And if not, I’m going to go back and work on my game.”
John Juettner is a sportswriter from the Chicago area. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.