June 2, 2003
Headlined by the inclusion of all five returning members from last summer's bronze medalist USA Junior World Championship Qualifying team, 16 finalists, including UCLA freshman Ryan Hollins, for the 2003 USA Basketball Men's Junior World Championship Team were announced today following three days of Trials (May 30-June 1) at the U. S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO.
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 is 18 years old, born 10/10/84). The USA Team was selected by the USA Basketball Men's Collegiate Committee.
Joining Hollins as a finalist for the 2003 USA Basketball Men's Junior World Championship Team were: Mohamed Abukar (Rancho Bernardo / Escondido, Calif.); Maurice Ager (Michigan State / Detroit, Mich.); James Augustine (Illinois / Mokena, Ill.); Brandon Bowman (Georgetown / Santa Monica, Calif.); Daniel Brown (Illinois / Maywood, Ill.); Paul Davis (Michigan State / Rochester, Mich.); Daniel Horton (Michigan / Cedar Hill, Texas); Al Jefferson (Prentiss High School / Prentiss, Miss.); Brian Johnson (Bishop O'Connell High School, Va. / Glenarden, Md.); Jonathan Modica (Arkansas / Smackover, Ark.); Kevin Pittsnogle (West Virginia / Martinsburg, W.Va.); J.J. Redick (Duke/ Roanoke, Va.); C.J. Watson (Tennessee / Las Vegas, Nev.); Deron Williams (Illinois / The Colony, Texas); and Kennedy Winston (Alabama / Prichard, Ala.).
"As a staff we are very pleased that Ryan is a finalist for the U. S. Junior squad," said Bruin head coach Ben Howland. "The experience that he gains through all this will be invaluable to him and our team next season."
Hollins last weekend was a busy student-athlete. He missed the first day of the basketball trials because he was competing on Friday 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). Although Hollins did not qualify for the upcoming 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.
"There may not be a quote unquote big name star like we had last year with Carmelo Anthony (who was a member of the 2002 USA Junior World Championship Qualifying Team), but what we have is a team that is really going to play hard. Play hard and focus together. And certainly one that is athletic. It seems that they have a tremendous focus on wanting to be successful in this tournament, and that is a real big positive for us," stated USA junior team mentor and University of Oregon head coach Ernie Kent.
Of the 16 finalists, eight have participated in previous USA Basketball competitions including five 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 selected as finalists were Abukar, Brown, Horton, Johnson and Williams. Also possessing prior USA Basketball experience are Davis (2001 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival), Modica (2001 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival) and Redick (2001 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival).
"I think that's going to be huge," commented Kent about the five returning members from last year's junior qualifying team, "particularly if all five make the team once we head out of Dallas. They're going to be able to not only handle the environment over there better having played in international competition, but more importantly, they're going to be able to educate the other players on what to expect and how to handle the international environment."
Seven of the USA team hopefuls, Brown, Augustine, Horton, Modica, Pittsnogle, Redick and Watson, claimed all-freshman team honors in their respective conference (Hollins last season as a true freshman was the Bruins' starting center and earned Honorable Mention All-Pac-10 Freshman honors). Three of the finalists, Abukar, Jefferson and Johnson, competed at the high school level in 2002-03, with Jefferson and Johnson having completed their junior year in '03.
The official 12-member USA junior team will be finalized during the team's June 24-July 6 training camp, which will be held in Dallas, TX. In preparation for the Junior World Championship, Kent's squad will participate 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 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 quarterfinals, 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. Kent, who was head coach of the USA junior qualifying team last summer, will serve again as head mentor of the 2003 USA junior squad, he will be assisted by Dennis Felton of the University of Georgia and Ray Harper of Kentucky Wesleyan College.
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.
USA Basketball Men's Collegiate Committee
The USA Basketball Men's Collegiate Committee is chaired by former University of Virginia Director of Athletics, Terry Holland, and consists of: NCAA appointees Jim Boeheim (head coach, Syracuse University, N.Y.), Evans, Jim O'Brien (head coach, Ohio State University) and Tubby Smith (head coach, University of Kentucky); NABC appointee Oliver Purnell (head coach, Clemson University); NAIA appointee Ralph Turner (head coach, Union University, Tenn.); NJCAA appointee Dan Sparks (head coach, Vincennes University, Ind.), and athlete representatives Steve Wojciechowski (1995 USA Junior World Championship Team and assistant coach at Duke University, N.C.) and A.J. Wynder (1995 USA Pan American Games Team and head coach at Nassau Community College, N.Y.).