James Harden holds up the flag at the Olympic Games London 2012 on Aug. 12, 2012 in London.
There’s no question USA Basketball will again boast an experienced and deep roster at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, but it’s narrowing down the list from 20 to 12 that will be the challenge for coaches at the national team training camp Aug. 5-9.
Attending camp in Las Vegas will be 18 athletes with previous USA Basketball experience, including five who are Olympic gold medalists in Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Kevin Love and Kyle Lowry. Davis, Andre Drummond and Harden all have experience from the previous World Cup — the trio contributed to the gold medal in 2014 — while Eric Gordon and Kevin Love won with the 2010 World Cup team.
Filling out the rest of the roster are Bradley Beal, Tobias Harris, Kyle Kuzma, Damian Lillard, Brook Lopez, C.J. McCollum, Paul Millsap, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Myles Turner, P.J. Tucker and Kemba Walker.
It’s an experienced group with a lot of success achieved in the NBA, something that excites National Managing Team Director Jerry Colangelo.
“It’s quite a group of individuals who have accomplished a great deal in their collegiate, and more importantly, their NBA careers,” Colangelo said. “Just looking at the awards, the All-Stars, the all-league players, everyone has real strong credentials.”
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But Colangelo also spoke about the immense challenge facing Team USA. While the U.S. has more or less dominated Olympic play, it has won just five of 17 FIBA world titles. Even though the Americans will be going for their third gold medal in a row, the FIBA World Cup remains an immense challenge, one that is a tall task for a team with little time to prepare before the tournament tips off Aug. 31.
“This particular World Cup is going to be very challenging,” Colangelo said. “It’s going to be a learning experience … we don’t have a lot of time to do it but that’s part of our challenge.”
Leading Team USA will be San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, and he will be joined by assistants Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce and Jay Wright.
“We’re fully aware of the difficulty ahead,” Popovich said. “We respect the teams more than you’ll know, that process started months ago as far as watching these teams play and understanding how good they are. Our eyes are wide open with what the task ahead is.”
More than just a world title is on the line as the results of the World Cup will qualify seven countries for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Should Team USA finish as one of the top two nations from the Americas, it will qualify directly to the Games.
Colangelo remarked on the excitement among the players to have the opportunity to represent their country, despite the addition to their busy schedules just ahead of the NBA season.
“There was a time not too long ago where it was difficult to get players to pay that price … but we think we’ve changed that,” Colangelo said. “We have players who want to participate, who want to represent their country. What it means, the value to them in their lives and their careers, what it was before and where we are today is night and day.”
Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.