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Basabe begins Team USA tryouts

BY SETH ROBERTS | JUNE 17, 2011 7:20 AM

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Melsahn Basabe’s plane ride from Iowa to Colorado this morning will take about an hour and a half.

If all goes well, he could be taking a 10-hour flight next week.

Basabe’s tryout for the USA Basketball U19 World Championship team begins today in Colorado Springs, Colo. If the Iowa forward makes the final roster on June 24, he’ll represent the country at the 2011 FIBA U19 World Championship in Latvia from June 30 through July 10.

“I’m pretty excited,” Basabe said. “I’ve been working hard — training, drills, weights, getting up early. I’ve been putting all this time in, so now we’ll see if it pays off.”

Basabe and 20 other young players from around the country will attend the tryout, held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The group will compete for 12 spots on head coach Paul Hewitt’s roster, and the Hawkeye said just being invited to the training camp is an honor.

“Just a year ago, I wasn’t ranked [and] I wasn’t even the most sought-after person on my high-school team,” the sophomore-to-be said. “Over the course of one year, [I think] I’ve proven myself. Of course, my job’s not done — but to get the respect and people giving me credit really means something to me.”

Roster finalists will be announced on June 19, and a final cut will be made just before the team flies to Europe. A release from USA Basketball didn’t specify how many of the original 21 players will make it past the first cut.

The FIBA World Championship is structured as a pool-play tournament, and Team USA will play fellow Group D nations Egypt, Serbia, and China in the first round. The top-three teams in each group will be sorted into two more pools with six members each and will play the three new countries. The top-four teams from each second-round group will advance to the quarterfinals.

The tournament finals will be held on July 10.

As daunting as the entire process may sound, though, Iowa point guard Bryce Cartwright said Basabe has appeared to be unfazed.

“He hasn’t seemed nervous at all,” Cartwright said. “He’s a pretty confident dude, and with reason — he’s been putting the work in. We usually work out around the same time, [and] it seems like he’s taking it to heart.”

Cartwright also said he thinks the young forward, who averaged 11 points and a team-best 6.8 rebounds per game for the Hawkeyes last year, has a “high chance” of making the final roster.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery agreed, particularly because of the amount of training Basabe has done during the off-season.

“He’s focused and [has been] really working diligently,” he said. “He’s in phenomenal shape. He has really worked on his overall skill set. He was a rebounder, shot-blocker, and low-post scorer last year, but he has been working on his perimeter game and putting it on the floor a little bit more.
“He’s really looking good in those areas.”

Basabe will have to continue to play well to stand out from the rest of the group, which includes several Big Ten players and six individuals with prior Team USA experience. The Glen Cove, N.Y., native said he’s confident he’s going to be on the flight to Latvia on June 24, though.

“I’m going into it saying I’m going to make the team,” he said. “I played in a top conference, [and] I played against some of the people that are trying out for the team — I’ve seen them play, and I’m familiar with their games. It’s a select group, but I’m going in there with the attitude that I can compete with anybody and I should make this team.”


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