June 23, 2003
UCLA's Ryan Hollins, the Bruins' starting center last season as a true freshman, is one of 18 finalists who hope to make the official 12-member USA Junior Team that will be finalized during the squad's June 24-July 6 training camp which will be held in Dallas, TX. In preparation for the FIBA Junior World Championship, the U.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.
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). The USA team finalists were selected by the USA Basketball Men's Collegiate Committee. In 2002-03, 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, finalists for the 2003 USA Basketball Men's Junior World Championship Team include: Mohamed Abukar (Rancho Bernardo HS / Escondido, Calif.); Maurice Ager (Michigan State / Detroit, Mich.); Brandon Bowman (Georgetown / Santa Monica, Calif.); Daniel Brown (Illinois / Maywood, Ill.); Paul Davis (Michigan State / Rochester, Mich.); Daniel Horton (Michigan / Cedar Hill, Texas); Brian Johnson (Bishop O'Connell HS Va. / Glenarden, Md./ Johnson's participation is contingent on him being medically cleared to compete in the USA training camp, he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee early in the first USA Men's National Team Trials session on Friday, May 30); 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.) and Deron Williams (Illinois / The Colony, Texas).
Five players have also been added who are eligible to make the team - University of Oklahoma 6-5 forward guard DeAngelo Alexander (Midwest City, OK), University of Michigan 6-9 freshman center Graham Brown (Mio, MI), 6-10 high school junior David Burgess (Woodbridge HS/Irvine, CA), University of Oregon 6-10 signee Mitch Platt (Green Valley HS/Henderson, NV) and prep All-American guard and University of Arizona 6-3 signee Mustafa Shakur (Philadelphia Friends Central HS/Wynnewood, PA).
Three previously announced finalists - James Augustine (Illinois/Mokena, IL), Al Jefferson (Prentiss HS/Prentiss, MS) and Kennedy Winston (Alabama/Prichard, AL) have withdrawn from consideration.
University of Oregon head coach Ernie Kent, who served as head coach of the USA junior qualifying team last summer, will again be head mentor of the 2003 USA junior squad, and he will be assisted by Dennis Felton of the University of Georgia and Ray Harper of Kentucky Wesleyan College.
"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 Kent following the May 30-June 1 USA Basketball National Team Trials.
Of the 18 finalists, 10 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 vying for junior roster positions in 2003 are Abukar, Daniel Brown, Horton, Johnson 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 2002 USA Basketball Youth Development Festivals) and Shakur (2002 USA Basketball Junior National Team Trials).
"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."
Six of the USA team hopefuls, Daniel Brown, Horton, Modica, Pittsnogle, Redick and Watson, claimed all-freshman team honors in their respective conference. Five of the finalists, Abukar, Burgess, Johnson, Platt and Shakur competed at the high school level in 2002-03, with Burgess and Johnson having completed their junior year in '03.