Team USA unveils young roster for FIBA WC

Team USA unveils young roster for FIBA WC

A change to the international schedule has forced USA Basketball into going with young rosters for the FIBA World Cup and the organization’s new leadership is loading Team USA with youth, size and defense in an attempt to win back the title.

Grant Hill, running his first major international event as executive director, unveiled his 12-man team Thursday for the World Cup set to take place in August and September in the Philippines, Okinawa and Indonesia. The Americans last won the title in 2014, finishing seventh at the most recent event in 2019.

The major challengers — France, Spain, Serbia and Australia — have a size advantage, and Hill and first-time national team coach Steve Kerr made combating that a priority.

That approach has reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr., 23, of the Grizzlies and defensive ace Walker Kessler, 21, of the Jazz, plus Bucks veteran Bobby Portis, 28, as the centers.

Hill and Kerr secured the commitment of long defensive wings who are effective shooters — Nets teammates Mikal Bridges, 26, and Cameron Johnson, 27 — and bruising perimeter defender Josh Hart, 28, of the Knicks.

It is also imperative in FIBA that Team USA has big guards, who are a vital weapon given the typical style of play. With that in mind, Team USA has 6-foot-5 Tyrese Haliburton, 23, of the Pacers, 6-5 Austin Reaves, 25, of the Lakers and 6-10 Paolo Banchero, 20, of the Magic as ball handlers.

Jalen Brunson, 26, of the Knicks is just 6-2 but is stout and has excelled in playing FIBA ball, winning MVP of the U-19 World Cup in 2015, and could play a leading role with this team. Haliburton made the all-tournament team in winning gold at the U-19 World Cup in 2019.

And there also are the scoring specialists: Anthony Edwards, 21, of the Timberwolves and Brandon Ingram, 25, of the Pelicans. It is not a group of A-list names likely to load the roster at the Olympics next summer in Paris, but it’s a well-rounded, up-and-coming bunch. Between Haliburton, Edwards, Reaves and Johnson, they signed for more than $600 million in new contracts with their teams this summer.

But with the World Cup and the Olympics now played in back-to-back summers — a change FIBA made following the 2014 World Cup so that it wouldn’t be held in the same summer as the FIFA World Cup of soccer — top American players are mostly limiting their participation to one of the competitions, opening opportunities for young talent.

“We are excited for the challenges ahead and look forward to the opportunity to compete at the 2023 FIBA Men’s World Cup,” Hill said in a statement. “I am confident that working together, and under the leadership of our outstanding coaching staff, this team will proudly represent the United States this summer in Manila.”

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