The United States just won another gold medal for men’s basketball in Rio, but before they even did so, people were already looking ahead to the next two US Olympic teams. Sports Illustrated has released a list of Olympic rookies that they would go with for 2020, while Fox Sports has released their idea of what the 2024 team could look like. There’s one thing that both of these lists have in common: they both feature Wildcats.
On his 2020 Olympic rookie list, SI’s Ben Golliver selects the two former Wildcats John Wall and Devin Booker to represent the US in Tokyo. Here’s what he had to say about Wall
Wall has had a frustrating experience with USA Basketball, given his early cut from the 2014 World Cup team and the fact that he’s been stuck for years behind the likes of Paul, Westbrook, Curry and others. In Rio, though, USAB could have really used Wall’s blow-by dribble penetration, his drive-and-dish instincts, his size and length on defense, his ability to create transition opportunities, and his ability to defend multiple positions. Come 2020, there’s a decent chance USA will again find itself needing some new blood at the one position. Colangelo plugged a hole this summer by tapping Raptors guard Kyle Lowry for his first Olympic duty at age 30. Mending fences with Wall, who will be 29 in 2020, would fit a similar timeline.
It would only make sense to have someone with Wall’s speed and athleticism to aid in replacing the current stars that certainly won’t be able to match Wall’s athletic ability by the time 2020 comes around.
As for Booker, here’s what Golliver said.
This hypothetical roster is halfway home, but it needs some positional balancing. Enter Booker, a smooth-shooting teenager who projects nicely as a floor-spacer/playmaker at the two spot for Team USA. The Curry/Booker/Leonard trio has "ruthlessly efficient" potential. Like Ingram, Booker was in Las Vegas for USA Basketball this summer after performing like the best player on the court during his Summer League cameo. If he continues his ahead-of-the-curve developmental arc, the 2015 lottery pick has a chance to be a USAB mainstay.
The pure shooting ability that Booker possesses certainly helps his case when considering him for a US roster spot, and if he only gets better, he’ll be a must-have for Team USA. Also, Golliver mentions Booker being a mainstay with USAB, and he clearly isn’t the only one whoh thinks that way, because Aaron Torres of Fox sports also had Booker listed on his Olympic roster for 2024, alongside current Wildcat Bam Adebayo. Much of the praise that Torres gives Booker is similar to what Golliver said, although he does add in that by 2024 Booker "should be one of the established stars of the league," and that he should be the "go-to scorer" for Team USA.
As for his analysis on Adebayo, here’s what he said.
With DeMarcus Cousins retiring after the 2020 Olympics with a decorated international career that includes two Olympic gold medals, two World Championships and a surprising Nobel Peace Prize win in 2019 (who saw that one coming?) we need an old-school banger in the paint, someone who will bring toughness and physicality when we need it the most. So who better to do that than a fellow Kentucky Wildcat, and a kid whose nickname is ‘Bam?’ At 6-9, Adebayo is a tiny bit undersized, but makes up for it by playing with a ‘motor’ that is rarely seen in a player so young. Adebayo is the closest thing this team has to a ‘role player’ but he will play a very important role as the U.S. shoots for (what is hopefully) its fifth straight Olympic gold medal.
Adebayo’s size and strength down low that causes Torres to consider him an "old-school banger" is something that few other countries would be able to compete with, and with his energy and intensity there is no one that could stop him in international play.
The idea of Kentucky having three Olympic basketball players between the next two summer games (four, if you count Cousins for 2020) isn’t too far-fetched, and may actually be selling the Cats short, as with the talent coming through this season we may see more on that 2024 team. Nonetheless, we hope to at least see Wall, Booker and Adebayo making some noise for Team USA in the future.