Marcus Smart (Getty Images
(via USA Basketball)
Six different countries have captured gold in the last six tournaments, with the U.S. failing to medal altogether three times. Not only do other countries have the advantage of fielding more cohesive teams who have played together previously, USA Basketball often struggles to attract the top American players since many are either getting acclimated at college or preparing for the NBA draft.
The training camp roster the U.S. has assembled for this year's event has a bit more star power than usual but it's still reflective of past problems. Of the 24 players trying out in Colorado Springs next month for the 12-player U.S. Team, there are only a couple of established college stars or incoming McDonald's All-Americans.
One of the centerpieces of the team will almost certainly be Marcus Smart, the Oklahoma State rising sophomore who likely would have been a top 10 pick had he chosen to enter next month's NBA draft. Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon, Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes, Louisville's Montrezl Harrell and Syracuse's Jerami Grant are also among the returning college players who will compete for a roster spot.
The most highly touted incoming freshman on the roster is Arizona signee Aaron Gordon, a gifted forward who was among the top players in the Class of 2013. Besides him, however, not one of Rivals.com's top 20 players in the Class of 2013 are participating in the training camp, likely contributing to USA Basketball's decision to invite Class of 2014 standouts Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow.
Though the U.S. team's roster would surely be more stacked if the likes of Andrew and Aaron Harrison or Julius Randle were trying out, the good news is the Americans haven't always needed star power to win.
In 2009, the U.S. captured gold for the first time since 1991 even though its best players were modest talents like Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas), Trey Thompkins (Georgia) and Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh). In retrospect, the guy who has become the best player from that team was Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, and the Washington State wing came off the bench for that team.
The 2011 U.S. team was headlined by UConn standout Jeremy Lamb, Creighton's Doug McDermott, Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. and Florida's Patric Young. They went 5-1 in the prelims but crashed out of medal contention with a quarterfinal loss to unheralded Russia, an upset highlighted by the U.S. zero made 3-pointers.
It will be up to 12 of the players from the above list to avenge that loss. It's not the most high-profile group the U.S. could have assembled, but the talent is still there for a gold medal run.
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