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.
Jim Boeheim, Billy Donovan and company had some difficult decisions to make when cutting the USA U18 roster from 23 to 14.
Quite a few eyebrows were raised, for example, when the highly regarded Harrison twins were cut.
“I thought everybody that was invited to try out was obviously a high-level player,” Shaka Smart, an assistant to Donovan with the U18s and the head coach at VCU, told SNY.tv Saturday by phone from Colorado Springs, Colo.
“There were 23 guys and we had to get it down to 12. There’s some really good players that obviously weren’t going to be a part of the team. We’re at 14 right now and we still have to cut a couple more.”
Two guys who likely won’t get cut before the team departs Tuesday for the FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Brazil are Marcus Smart (pictured at left) and Julius Randle, both of whom have impressed the staff.
“He’s been phenomenal,” Shaka Smart said of the 6-foot-3 Marcus Smart (no relation), an Oklahoma State-bound guard from Flower Mound, TX. “Really has led the team in a lot of statistical categories but also a lot of intangible categories, like energy, toughness. He’s plays a lot older than he is.”
The 6-8 Randle is the No. 1 power forward in the Class of 2013 and told SNY.tv this past week he has no college list, but could envision himself at North Carolina.
“Julius Randle is the most talented player here,” Smart said. “He’s got a chance to be a phenomenal player. He’s a year younger than Smart so obviously it’s more of a learning process for him before he gets out of college. He’s very coachable, he’s a very good teammate. And he’s a highly regarded player but what I didn’t know coming in is just how quick how he is for a guy that size. He has elite-level quickness, on any level for a 6-9 guy.
“I’m just a college coach so I don’t claim or want to be an expert on the NBA, but just based on other guys that I’ve seen or been around, I’ll say that he has a chance to be a very good NBA player.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, 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.