Since 1991, the American teams at the under-19 world basketball championships have featured some of the biggest names in college basketball. Michael Beasley, Stephen Curry, Jonny Flynn, J.J. Redick, Deron Williams, Nick Collison, Steve Logan, Vince Carter and Stephon Marbury have all represented the United States in the championships, but to marginal success. In the four tournaments since then, those star-driven American teams have earned two silvers and finished out of the medals twice. Leave it to the most-non descript team in nearly two decades to bring gold back to the States.
Not that the American team was comprised of a bunch of scrubs. Seth Curry (Duke) and Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas), in particular, figure to make a lot of noise in coming years in NCAA basketball), but there was far less star power than usual on the 2009 roster. With colleges eager to keep young players on campus for the summer months and with young players just as eager to try to improve their games at places like the LeBron James' Skills Academy (especially when dunking on the host is a keynote event), USA basketball had more trouble filling out the roster than usual.
Perhaps the lack of stars is what propelled Team USA to an undefeated record in the U19 tournament this time around. (The Jamie Dixon-led team earned the gold with an 88-80 victory over Greece this weekend.) The ego-driven USA basketball teams of the middle part of this decade suffered from the lack of team mentality. The return to the top of the medal stand didn't happen until the roster was compiled with more of a team concept in mind rather than collecting the best talent. Could it be that getting forced into a less-talented roster ended up improving the team?