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Team USA Under 19 Loss To Russia Causing A Stir

Players like Terrence Jones are taking heat from some quarters for turning down the USA Under 19 team invitation, now that the U19 team has finished a disappointing 5th, and out of the medals.
Players like Terrence Jones are taking heat from some quarters for turning down the USA Under 19 team invitation, now that the U19 team has finished a disappointing 5th, and out of the medals.

Eamonn Brenanann and Luke Win both are engaging in a bit of hand-wringing over the USA Under 19 basketball team (hereafter U19) losing to Russia in a close game the other day and with that loss, missing out on the gold medal game and ultimately finishing fifth, out of the medals.

There are two obvious reason for the disappointing finish:

  1. The rest of the world is catching up to the USA, at least somewhat, and;
  2. Most of the best U19 talent chose to stay home.

Players such as Kentucky's Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, along with Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and a number other very talented players decided to pass on the opportunity to go to Latvia. Some people, including Patric Young of the Florida Gators, bemoaned the absence of great players:

Young, who openly wondered earlier in the week, "Why would anyone not want to be a part of this experience?"

Lots of reasons, Patric.  First of all, Latvia is not exactly a destination on a lot of people's bucket list.  Second, players with aspirations to participate in next year's draft have better ways to spend their time, although not everybody thinks its  great idea.  According to Winn:

The U.S. had enough talent to win this tournament if it gelled properly ("We had a very good team," Hewitt said), but it's hard not to think about what might have been. Especially when many of those players are killing time in meaningless pickup games at shoe-company camps. One D-I coach I contacted -- not on the U.S. staff -- speculated that paranoia in the coaching community leads to the low participation. "Guys want to keep total control over their players," he said. "They don't want anyone else getting in their [players'] ears."

"Meaningless pickup games?"  If only it were so.  Getting in front of NBA scouts is what the players want to do, and for very good reason -- they intend to be in the draft next year.  That makes those games a lot more meaningful than some are willing to admit.

I really don't believe the line about keeping total control over the players.  That just seems unlikely to me.  Yes, maybe the unnamed source is in a better position to know, but I'm pretty skeptical of such anonymous citations.  But there's more:

One scout in attendance blamed schools' manipulation of the APR to fit one-and-done prospects. "If you have guys who might go one-and-done, then you try as hard as you can to get them into summer school," he said. "It's not really for their sake, but so they're in good enough academic standing that it doesn't hurt you when they leave early in the spring."

"Manipulation  of the APR?"  To me, this is unserious.  Is Winn actually suggesting by this pejorative term that getting a leg up on school is less important that spending time in Latvia trying to win a gold medal?  I'm sorry, but this is exactly the sort of double-standard that drives me crazy.  One minute its, "these mercenary one-and-doners don't take academics seriously," then when they show they do, it's "manipulation."  It's hard to win playing offense and defense at the same time.

Brennan buys Winn's argument lock, stock, and barrel:

Complacency, confusion, and the best of American talent performing in Nike-sponsored shoe camps: This is why the US lost to Russia, barely survived Australia, and finished fifth at the Under-19 FIBA World Championships this week. Unless the NBA becomes less desirable, college coaches become less controlling and shoe companies become less powerful, this won't be the last time other nations ecstatically celebrate a Team USA loss.

Forget the bogus "controlling" and "shoe company" pap.  These are red herrings raised for the entire purpose of trying to sell readers on the wicked money-grubbing of corporate America and the paranoia of overpaid, underworked coaches.  It's illusory to the extent it actually has anything to do with these kids' decisions.

The reason these kids stay at home can be summed up in three letters:  N. B. A.  Everything else is just agenda-pushing and nonsense.