Wednesday, August 1, 2007

International basketball a benefit to players

North Carolina forward Deon Thompson and Davidson guard Stephen Curry demonstrated this summer why college coaches get excited when their players get selected by USA Basketball to play in international tournaments.

The Tar Heel players are raving about Thompson’s physical condition as he prepares for a larger role starting in the post opposite Tyler Hansbrough with Brandan Wright departed for the NBA.
Thompson averaged 10.0 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds as Team USA won the silver medal at the Under-19 world championships. On the same team, Curry again showed he’s as good as players from so-called “major” conferences after his brilliant freshman season. He averaged 9.4 points.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop said Curry had a “very productive” experience with the Under-19 team, and he’s “delighted” with Curry’s progress.

“He’s an incredibly special player,” McKillop said. “He’s got the full package of talent and attitude and work ethic and team orientation and basketball IQ.”

The opportunity for top-notch competition with USA Basketball is so attractive that even injured players get something out of it. North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington played in just one game before suffering a sprained left shoulder, but merely making the Pan Am Games team ahead of Tennessee’s Chris Lofton and Marquette’s Wes Matthews and Jerel McNeal was an accomplishment. Ellington's shoulder is better, a university spokesman said.

After DeMarcus Nelson fractured his left wrist during Pan Am trials, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said he was still glad Nelson participated. (Of course, as U.S. Olympic coach, Krzyzewski probably needed to say that).

Coaches understand that USA Basketball tours are not for everybody. Hansbrough, who gets physically pounded all season and doesn’t enjoy flying, certainly could have made the Pan Am Games team if he’d tried out. He’s probably better off avoiding more pounding.

But those who play test themselves against the best college players and the best the world has to offer. That can only help.

– Ken Tysiac