June 30, 2003
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Five days into training, the number of finalists vying for one of the 12 USA Junior World Championship Team roster positions was reduced by three to 15. Training in Dallas, Texas, since June 24, USA Basketball announced Sunday that 15 players, including UCLA's Ryan Hollins, remain in contention for a junior team berth after cutting 6-9 Mohamed Abukar (Rancho Bernardo / Escondido, Calif.), and 6-10 University of Oregon signee Mitch Platt (Green Valley High School / Henderson, Nev.). Additionally, 6-9 Brian Johnson (Bishop O'Connell High School, Va. / Glenarden, Md.) was unable to participate in the finalist training camp because of a sprained Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) in his left knee that was suffered early in the first USA Basketball Men's National Team Trials session on Friday, May 30.
"The things I like are we're a very quick, very athletic team that gets up and down the floor. My concerns are that we don't have a lot of time to put this team together," USA head coach Ernie Kent recently commented. "But I certainly like their energy, their enthusiasm and they seem like a group that is really, really willing to work hard and listen and that's always a good thing from a coaching perspective."
The official 12-member USA junior team will be finalized during the team's June 24-July 6 training camp in Dallas. Also as part of its training for the FIBA Junior World Championship, the U.S. is taking part in the 2003 Global Games that are being conducted in Dallas. Featuring 10 teams, the USA will play five games between June 30-July 5.
The USA opens the Global Games on June 30 facing Lithuania (8 p.m. CDT), and the U.S. will also meet Team Texas on July 1 (8 p.m. CDT), Africa on July 2 (8 p.m. CDT) and Canada on July 3 (8 p.m. CDT). Following an off day, the finals of the Global Games will be held July 5. All Global Games competition is being played at Moody Coliseum at Southern Methodist University.
The USA Junior squad will compete July 10-20 in the 2003 FIBA Men's Junior World Championship Tournament that was recently moved from Malaysia to Thessaloniki, Greece. Featuring 16 junior national teams that qualified last summer, the teams have been placed into four groups of four for preliminary round robin play. The top two teams from each group will advance to the medal second round, while the remainder of the field will compete for 9th - 16th place. The USA has been placed in Group C, joining China, Nigeria and Slovenia, The USA will open play against Slovenia on July 10, and face China on July 11 and Nigeria on July 12. Second round action is being played July 14-16, while the world championship semifinals slated to be held July 19 and the finals will be played July 20.
Eligibility for the 2003 USA Basketball Men's Junior World Championship Team is limited to any male athlete who is a U.S. citizen and 19-years-old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 1984/Hollins was born 10/10/84). The USA team finalists were selected by the USA Basketball Men's Collegiate Committee.
In 2002-03 as a true freshman, Hollins, a 6-11, 215-pounder from Pasadena Muir HS, appeared in 24 games for the Bruins (started 15) and averaged 16.7 minutes a contest. He was the team's No. 7 scorer (4.3), No. 6 rebounder (3.5) and was second on the team in blocked shots, averaging almost one a game. Hollins shot 59.4 (38-64) from the field (No. 2 on the team). His season-highs included 14 points at Georgetown (2/8), 11 rebounds vs. Oregon (1/30) and seven blocked shots vs. Oregon (1/30). He earned Pac-10 Honorable Mention All-Freshman honors.
A two-sport athlete for the Bruins, Hollins missed the first day of the USA Junior basketball trials (May 30) because he was competing for the Bruin men's track & field team at the 2003 NCAA West Regional meet at Stanford. In the high jump, Hollins cleared the opening height (6-8) and tied for ninth (at the conclusion of the high jump, he caught a plane to Colorado Springs and arrived there early Saturday morning to compete for the USA Junior team). Although Hollins did not qualify for the 2003 NCAA Outdoor T & F Championships (June 11-14 at Sacramento), this spring he did have personal-bests in all three jumps - 7-0.25 high jump, 22-3 long jump and 48-7.50 triple jump.
Along with Hollins, the 15 remaining USA Basketball Men's Junior World Championship Team finalists include - Maurice Ager (Michigan State / Detroit, Mich.); De'Angelo Alexander (Oklahoma / Midwest City, Okla.); Brandon Bowman (Georgetown / Santa Monica, Calif.); Daniel Brown (Illinois / Maywood, Ill.); Graham Brown (Michigan / Mio, Mich.); David Burgess (Woodbridge High School / Irvine, Calif.); Paul Davis (Michigan State / Rochester, Mich.); Ryan Hollins (UCLA / Pasadena, Calif.); Daniel Horton (Michigan / Cedar Hill, Texas); Jonathan Modica (Arkansas / Smackover, Ark.); Kevin Pittsnogle (West Virginia / Martinsburg, W.Va.); J.J. Redick (Duke / Roanoke, Va.); Mustafa Shakur (Philadelphia Friends Central / Wynnewood, Pa.); C.J. Watson (Tennessee / Las Vegas, Nev.) and Deron Williams (Illinois / The Colony, Texas).
Kent, University of Oregon's successful head coach who also served as head coach of the USA junior qualifying team last summer, is again head mentor of the 2003 USA junior squad, and is being assisted by Dennis Felton of the University of Georgia and Ray Harper of Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Of the 15 remaining finalists, eight have participated in previous USA Basketball competitions, including three members of last summer's Junior World Championship Qualifying Team that finished 4-1, earned the bronze medal and qualified the United States for the 2003 FIBA Junior World Championship. Members of the 2002 junior qualifying team vying for junior roster positions in 2003 are Daniel Brown, Horton and Williams. Also possessing prior USA Basketball experience are Alexander (2002 USA Junior National Team Trials, 2001 Youth Development Festival), Davis (2001 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival), Modica (2001 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival), Redick (2001 and 2001 USA Basketball Youth Development Festivals) and Shakur (2002 USA Basketball Junior National Team Trials).
Six of the USA team hopefuls, Daniel Brown, Horton, Modica, Pittsnogle, Redick and Watson, claimed all-freshman team honors in their respective conference (Hollins earned Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 Freshman team). Two of the finalists, Burgess and Shakur, competed at the high school level in 2002-03, with Burgess having completed just his junior year in '03.
USA In FIBA Junior World Championships
Held every four years for men age 19-years-old and younger since 1979, this summer marks the seventh FIBA Men's Junior World Championship. The United States has had great success at the junior worlds, collecting a record five medals in six tries, including three golds and two silver medals, while owning a 38-9 overall record (.809). Led by then-University of Florida head coach Lon Kruger, the 1991 USA Junior World Championship Team captured the gold with an unblemished 8-0 record, marking the last time the U.S. claimed gold. At the most recent Junior Worlds, a U.S. squad coached by Arizona State's Rob Evans, went 7-0 before being bested by Spain 94-87 in the gold medal game.