FOX Sports Exclusive
Who would be on Under-23 Team USA?
We're currently in the midst of a wonderful Dream Team renaissance period. It's been 20 years since Larry, Michael and Magic joined forces in Barcelona and there’s been a flood of reflection and nostalgia for the squad. GQ had a rich oral history in their July issue, NBATV rolled out a fabulous documentary earlier this month, and Jack McCallum has a book from behind-the-scenes in Barcelona that hits shelves July 10.
Where was soon-to-be first overall pick Anthony Davis in the summer of 1992?
Well, nowhere. He didn’t exist.
“I wasn’t even born yet,” Davis said with a laugh when asked about the ’92 Summer Games during Wednesday’s NBA Draft media session. “I’ve been wanting to watch that NBA TV Documentary, but I haven’t caught it yet. I was on a plane, I think, when it aired. But yeah, I’ve read all about the Dream Team, seen clips and all that. But obviously, I have no real memories of them. I wasn’t alive.”
I guess that’s a pretty good excuse.
But for Davis, unlike the other wide-eyed draft prospects crammed into a hotel conference room and asked to answer questions like “How will it feel to hear your name announced tomorrow?” over and over again Wednesday, the opportunity to play in this year’s Olympics is very real.
As the only college player selected as a finalist for Team USA’s hoops team, there’s a decent chance Davis gets a roster spot this summer. With the squad undersized as is, Davis provides a defensive presence and fresh legs. He hasn’t played in a competitive basketball game since winning an NCAA title in April.
“It's an honor to even be considered. To be 19 years old, playing with those guys? For Team USA? That’d be a dream come true.”
Whereas Davis has a shot at playing for Team USA in London this summer, potential No. 2 overall pick Bradley Beal will be watching from home. But what if there was an Under-23 age restriction, as has been the rumor in NBA circles for quite some time. Would Beal have a shot at making that team?
“I’d like to think I’d be considered,” Beal said. “It’d be exciting. We’d all want to play on that team.”
Beal, a star at Florida, notes that he played with fellow draft prospects Andre Drummond and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for Team USA in the FIBA U17 World Championship in Hamburg, Germany, in 2010.
“It was a great experience for all of us. We got to represent our country and we won the whole thing. I’ll never forget putting that Team USA jersey on for the first time. Making the NBA and being drafted is going to be a giant thing, but wearing that jersey was an incredible achievement, too.”
The Under-23 concept is one that's been bounced around for the past couple of months. With several top players already removing their names from consideration for the 2012 Games and a history of several other players doing the same in Summer Games prior, there’s a lot to like about having a fresh, new crop of hungry young American players representing the country every four years.
“You’d have a lot of the top young NBA players and a bunch of really high-achieving college guys,” said John Henson, a 6-foot-10, 21-year-old prospect out of North Carolina. “It’d be really fun to see who’d make that team, and I think guys would be really competitive about it. Everyone would want to be included.”
Henson didn’t catch the NBATV documentary when it first aired, either. But he saw it. He caught it the way most 21-year-olds catch things now. “I ran home when the flight landed and went online and watched the whole thing on some random website.”
The next generation of NBA greats is loaded with talent. And though the thought of seeing LeBron and Kobe and Chris Paul run through London this summer like Michael, Magic and Larry did Barcelona in 1992 is appealing, the thought of John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Brad Beal may be even cooler. The Under-23 concept would keep the roster fresh and the faces fluid. No, it wouldn't be Team USA fielding its very best, but it would feature the next wave of the game's superstars.
“There’s a lot of talent in this room that’d be considered for that team,” said 7-foot Illinois center Meyers Leonard. “We’d all want to play for Team USA, for sure. It’s the ultimate honor, you know?”
“The original Dream Team had all the very best players, at all the positions,” said 20-year-old Syracuse guard Dion Waiters. “But the 2008 one — with LeBron, Kobe, Wade — I don’t know man, they might have been even better. I don’t know who’d win that one. That’s a tough call.”
Would an Under-23 team interest Waiters? “That’d be amazing. I'm not sure about all that and how they'd decide who made it and who didn’t, but it’d be something I’d be interested in. I know that.”
Waiters is right. At the very least, an Under-23 team would bring both great debate and great interest to the Team USA selection process. Instead of individuals turning down the opportunity to wear the Stars and Stripes, or worse, suggesting they should be paid to do so — a team of the top guys under 23 would a) showcase the game’s next wave of talent in an international forum, and b) make the selection process a highly scrutinized and extremely fun practice. Picture a "Selection Sunday" in which the team was announced on national TV, or better yet, during halftime of an NBA Finals contest. Now? Eh, it'd be cool. With an Under-23 team? It'd be wild.
For four days, I’ve gone back and forth on my Under-23 team, and for four days, I’ve swapped out just about every position but four on the roster. Outside of John Wall, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis, there are no sure-fire locks. It’s fun to even speculate about.
In the end, here’s the Under-23 Team USA 12-man roster I’ve selected:
Cutoff Date (Must be 22 or younger by June 27, 2012)
UNDER-23 TEAM USA
1. Anthony Davis, center, 19
2. Greg Monroe, center, 22
3. DeMarcus Cousins, power forward, 21
4. Kyrie Irving, guard, 20
5. John Wall, guard, 21
6. Paul George, guard/forward, 22
7. James Harden, guard, 22
8. Jrue Holiday, guard, 22
9. Gordon Hayward, forward, 22
10. Kawhi Leonard, forward, 22
11. Tyreke Evans, guard, 22
12. Derrick Favors, power forward, 20
Just missed the cut
Brandon Jennings, Derrick Williams, Evan Turner, Kenneth Faried, Demar DeRozan, Brad Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson
“No matter who you put on that team,” Tyler Zeller, the 6-foot-11 North Carolina center explained, “you’re going to be leaving off a bunch of guys who you could make arguments for. And no matter what, they’d all — everyone, I’m sure — be incredibly honored to suit up for Team USA.”
It’s something worth considering … or at the very least, having a good argument over.