Sasser Makes Group of 16|
July 11, 1998
COLORDAO SPRINGS, Colo. - USA Basketball took another step toward selecting its official 1998 United States Men's World Championship Team with the naming of 16 finalists. The selections, made by the USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team Committee, were announced Saturday morning following five practices over the past three days that involved 27 players. The official 12-member USA World Championship Team is expected to be announced following the team's July 15-23 training in Monte Carlo.
Of the 16 players who were named today as finalists, six played in a professional foreign league in 1997-98, five played in the CBA in 1997-98, one played in both the CBA and professionally in Europe in 97-'98, two are current college underclassmen and two completed their college eligibility in 1998.
Named as finalists for the USA World Championship team were: Wendell Alexis (Alba Berlin, Germany / Syracuse 86); Ashraf Amaya (Idaho Stampede / Southern Illinois 93); Earl Boykins (Eastern Michigan 98); Tim Breaux (Idaho Stampede / Caceres C.B., Spain / Wyoming 92); Mateen Cleaves (Michigan State 00); Bill Edwards (Virtus Rome, Italy / Wright State 93); Kiwane Garris (Grand Rapids / Illinois 97); Michael Hawkins (Olympiakos, Greece / Xavier 95); Warren Kidd (Stefanel Milano, Italy / Middle Tennessee State 93); Gerard King (Siena, Italy / Nichols State 96); Jimmy King (Quad City Thunder / Michigan 95); Trajan Langdon (Duke 99); Brad Miller (Purdue 98); Jimmy Oliver (Ciudad De Huelva, Spain / Purdue 91); Jason Sasser (Sioux Falls Skyforce / Caja San Fernando, Spain / Texas Tech 96); David Wood (Rockford Lightning / Spain / Nevada Reno 87).
"The Committee is attempting to assemble the best team possible and in doing that in international basketball you have to have good shooters and some strong inside players. The competition was extremely spirited and close. It was really difficult pairing the squad down. Everyone worked hard and these were very dedicated young men who played extremely hard," said Rod Thorn, Chair of the USA Basketball Senior National Team Committee.
"We had several competitive days of work outs and this wasn't an easy cut, but now we feel we have a 16-man roster that will be easier to work with. We can refine and fine tune some of the things we have put in over the past couple of practices and get a better look at these 16 players. I think we have a versatile team and we have a couple of players who can play several positions for us. We're leaving our options open as to how many we will take to Monte Carlo for our training there," said USA World Championship Team head coach Rudy Tomjanovich.
Assisting Tomjanovich is Los Angeles Lakers head coach Del Harris and University of Illinois head mentor Lon Kruger. The 1998 FIBA World Championship for Men take place July 29-August 9 in Athens, Greece. Held every four years by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the World Championship is contested by 16 national teams.
A total of seven players boast of previous USA Basketball experience. Sasser was a member of the 1997 USA Basketball World Championship Qualifying Team that captured gold last summer in Uruguay with a 9-1 record. Boykins was selected as USA Basketball 1997 Male Athlete of the Year after leading the 97 USA World University Games Team to a gold medal in Italy. Miller was a member of the 1997 USA Basketball 22 And Under World Championship Team that finished 6-2 and in fifth place in Australia. Langdon was a member of the 1995 Junior World Championship and 1994 Junior World Championship Qualifying teams. Players who participated in U.S. Olympic Festival for USA Basketball include Alexis (1983), Amaya (1990), Breaux (1989), and Miller (1995).
The list of finalists also includes Jimmy King, the 1998 CBA Most Valuable Player and a member of the All-CBA first team and All-CBA Defensive Team. Of the returning collegians who will continue, Cleaves, a Michigan State junior-to-be, was an Associated Press All-America second team selection, and the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year. Langdon, who will be a senior at Duke in 1998-99, was a third team A.P. All-American, and All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team. Miller, who completed his collegiate career at Purdue in 1998, was an All-Big Ten Conference second team selection, and Boykins was the Mid-American Conference Tournament MVP last season while at Eastern Michigan University.
Several of the players have also made solid names for themselves overseas including Alexis who was named the Player of the Year in Germany's top division and finished 27th overall in the 1997 EuroLeague Player of the Year voting, while Gerard King was the leading rebounder in the Italian League averaging 13.5 boards a game, and Edwards was the fourth leading scorer in Italy in 1997-98.
Training plans for the 1998 USA Basketball Team call for the squad to continue to train (10-12 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.), at the Moody Bible Institute through July 13 and to conclude its Chicago training with a morning session on July 14. The team will travel to Monte Carlo, Monaco to train July 15-23 and play a pair of exhibition games on July 18 (versus France), July 19 (versus Spain). Moving on to Rome, Italy, the U.S. squad will train July 23-25 in Rome, Italy and play one exhibition game on July 25 (versus Italy). Traveling to Greece July 26, the USA team begins World Championship preliminary round play on July 29 against Brazil, and continues preliminary round play on July 30 versus Lithuania and July 31 against South Korea. Second Round Group play is slated to be conducted August 2-4, with quarterfinals, semifinals and finals action to be held August 7-9.
Based in Colorado Springs, USA Basketball is a non-profit organization and operates as the national governing body for men's and women's basketball in the United States under the authority of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978. As the recognized governing body for basketball in the United States by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Basketball's mission is to field American teams for international competitions, including the Olympics, competitions involving high school and college players, in addition to funding international basketball teams from physically challenged organizations.
USA Basketball is an organization made up of associations. Current USA Basketball active members include the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), American Basketball League (ABL), Continental Basketball Association (CBA), National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHSA), National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA), National Pro-Am City League Association, National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA), United States Armed Forces, USA Deaf Sports Federation (USADSF), Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) and the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). These 15 member organizations have representation on USA Basketball's various committees and ultimately determine how USA Basketball operates.