Donovan's emphasis on 'team' for Team USA
Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 17, 2013 at 7:16 p.m.
In his second season as a head coach with Team USA, Florida coach Billy Donovan has stressed the importance of “team.”
Last summer, Donovan guided Team USA to the a gold medal in the FIBA Americas 18-under championships in Brazil. This time around, the two-time NCAA championship coach faces a more daunting challenge. Later this month, he'll lead Team USA to the FIBA 19-under World Championships in the Czech Republic (June 27-July 7).
With assistants Shaka Smart (VCU) and Tony Bennett (Virginia), Donovan is wrapping up tryouts this week in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“The biggest thing is getting 12 players who understand that they are playing for something bigger than themselves,” Donovan said. “That takes a level of commitment, a level of sacrifice.
“Until a few weeks ago, I didn't realize that in our last 26 world championships in this age group, we've only won the gold medal twice. So I think our guys understand the level of competition that we're going to face.”
The tryout roster was trimmed from 26 players to 16 players on Sunday. The final 12 players will be announced on Tuesday.
Donovan said he likes the potential makeup of his roster from a length and athletic standpoint. He thinks it has the chance of being a strong defensive and rebounding team. An offseason emphasis on improved perimeter shooting led to the invitation of Oregon forward Damyean Dotson, Georgia Tech forward Marcus Georges-Hunt, Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon and Florida guard Michael Frazier II. All four are in the final 16.
“Last year, we didn't shoot the ball well at all,” Donovan said. “I think we were something like 18 percent from 3-point range.”
Donovan said Frazier has shot the ball “OK” during tryouts, but has excelled in other areas as well.
“To his credit, Michael has worked very hard,” Donovan said. “He's in good shape. The altitude here in Colorado Springs has not affected him. He's getting up and down the floor well.”
Another surprise has been the play of several high school-aged players. Donovan said Team USA approached both incoming freshmen Julius Randle (Kentucky) and Jabari Parker (Duke) about tryouts, but both had summer school commitments. But incoming Arizona freshman forward Aaron Gordon has dazzled at tryouts with his athletic ability, while center Jahlil Okafor (Class of 2014, Whitney Young High School, Chicago) also has made an impression.
“It's just one of those years,” Donovan said. “You have some high-level, talented guys a year younger that have played really well.”
That should make the final round of cuts a tough decision. After tryouts end, Donovan and Team USA will spend three days practicing in Washington, D.C., before traveling overseas.
That time will be spent on installing more offensive and defensive sets.
“The thing that's always a challenge is that you have no idea, there's no scouting, in terms of the opponents that you face,” Donovan said. “That's a little unsettling. We'll have some familiarity with some of the teams we faced last year — Canada, the South American teams — but not as much with the teams from Europe. So that's something we'll have to spend the next 10 to 12 days getting ready for.”