Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Scoop Jardine, Ashton Gibbs and Shabazz Napier will be competing this year for Big East victories, a league title and a deep NCAA Tournament run.But before the season starts, the trio from Syracuse (Jardine), Pittsburgh (Gibbs) and UConn (Napier) is already in full-fledged competition mode at the USA Basketball Men’s World University Games Team training camp.
The camp, which began Friday and runs through Aug. 7 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., will be used to select the 12-member team that will represent the USA at the 2011 World University Games men’s basketball competition Aug. 13-22 in Shenzhen, China.
Six of the 21 players at the training camp are from the Big East, including three big men – Aaric Murray of West Virginia, Yancy Gates of Cincinnati and Tim Abromaitis of Notre Dame. UConn forward Alex Oriakhi was chosen to participate in tryouts but opted to withdraw
“Oh man, it’s tough,” Jardine told SNY.tv by phone Friday night. “These are guys you’re going to be playing against during the season so you’re playing against them early.”
Said Gibbs: “Just to compete, not in a real game setting but a tryout setting, is definitely tougher because everybody’s trying to make the team, so everybody’s really going hard.”
Jardine, Gibbs and Napier can all play the point, so the coaching staff will have some tough decisions to make. Purdue’s Matt Painter is the head coach, and Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin and Butler’s Brad Stevens are the assistants.
“I’m excited to get to Colorado Springs and get our training camp started,” said Painter, who previously assisted the 2009 USA U19 World Championship Team, which featured Gibbs, to a gold medal. “I love to coach the game of basketball, and we’ve got a group of young men coming in whom I’m really looking forward to working with. This should be a fun and beneficial experience for everyone involved.
“As a coach, I’m always looking for guys who play hard, take care of the ball and make good decisions,” Painter continued. “When you do those three things, you’re usually pretty successful. Other than that, we’ll look to see how different guys fit together on and off the court, and how guys’ skill sets complement each other.”
After flying cross country Friday, Jardine played with the first team and Gibbs with the second. They had to adjust to the altitude in Colorado soon after stepping off the plane.
“Today was a tough day,” Jardine said. “We all flew in late and it’s tough because of the altitude here. You just have to keep competing and try your best to make the team.”
If they make the team, the travel won’t get any easier because the guys will make the trek to China.
“It’s definitely a good thing, something I want to do,” said Gibbs, a Scotch Plains, N.J. native, who tested the NBA waters before returning to campus for his senior season.
“I’ve been overseas before but just to play for my country is something that I cherish, especially being on the 19-and-under team so I really want to get a chance to do it again. And there’s a lot of good players so it’s going to be tough making the team. Hopefully I’ll make it.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.