Aug 1, 2011, 9:10 AM EDT
USA Basketball nearly has its “great group” set for the World University Games.
Tough to say if it’s gold medal good, though.
Six players were cut from the roster Sunday, leaving just two more before the final roster is set before Aug. 8 when the team leaves for China. Those cut were: Kim English (Missouri); Yancy Gates (Cincinnati); C.J. McCollum (Lehigh); Khris Middleton (Texas A&M); Tony Mitchell (Alabama); and John Shurna (Northwestern).
Not to say the remaining 14 guys vying for those final spots are lacking. It’s a solid group, athletic and savvy, filled with plenty of scorers, rebounders and shooters. USA and Purdue coach Matt Painter isn’t isn’t blowing smoke with his praise.
“We have a lot of balance,” USA and Purdue coach Matt Painter said in a release. “I think on the interior we have some shot-blockers, we have some athletes, guys that can really go and get the basketball and some real good shooters. We have some good, interchangeable parts, and a lot of talent, both returning talent and young. I’m really excited about the mix we have.”
The 14 finalists? Tim Abromaitis (Notre Dame); Marcus Denmon (Missouri); Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh); Draymond Green (Michigan State); JaMychal Green (Alabama); Scoop Jardine (Syracuse); John Jenkins (Vanderbilt); Orlando Johnson (UC Santa Barbara); Greg Mangano (Yale); Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota); Ray McCallum (Detroit Mercy); Darius Miller (Kentucky); Aaric Murray (West Virginia); and Shabazz Napier (Connecticut).
Among that group, I’d consider Gibbs, Jenkins (above), the Greens and Mbakwe to be the only locks. That gives you the two best shooters, rebounders and the best all-around player (Draymond Green). From there, you’ll need a couple of point guards, which means at least two of the Napier-McCallum-Denmon group will make the cut. (Maybe all three given Denmon can play off-guard, but he’d be a tad small.)
After that, take your pick. The coaches (Butler’s Brad Stevens and Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin are assistants) will be looking for the right mix of chemistry and skill to go for gold. Good luck.
If the 2009 team that featured Evan Turner, Quincy Pondexter, James Anderson, Corey Fisher, Robbie Hummel and Da’Sean Butler (among others) took the bronze, the 2011 team really needs to find that right mix.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.
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