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Thursday, April 10, 2003
Iverson, O'Neal will be asked to join 2004 team

Associated Press

Allen Iverson and Jermaine O'Neal will be asked to join the 2004 U.S. Olympic men's basketball team, a source told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The decision was made in a conference call among members of the USA Basketball selection committee, a basketball source with knowledge of the selections said on condition of anonymity.

The choices of Iverson and O'Neal bring to nine the number of players who have been either selected or officially named to the team.

Asked about the Olympics on Thursday, Iverson said he hasn't received official word.

"It's something I'll cherish for the rest of my life,'' Iverson said after scoring 25 points in Philadelphia's 99-78 win over Boston. "It has a lot to do with respect. Only the elite players represent their country."

USAB only has said publicly that Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd and Tracy McGrady are on the team. Further announcements will be made to include the additions of Iverson, O'Neal, Mike Bibby, Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant.

Iverson's selection fulfills one of his wishes and sets him up to play for his Philadelphia 76ers coach, Larry Brown, on the national team.

"It just shows I came a long way and overcame a lot of obstacles in my life," Iverson said. "If I'm surrounded by great players, it's going to definitely bring out the greatness in my game."

O'Neal, who plays for the Indiana Pacers, will become the first member of the U.S. team that finished sixth last summer at the World Championships to be invited back to play for Team USA.

The U.S. team now has plenty of backcourt scorers and three power forwards, but still no center.

If the selection committee does not select a true center when it fills out the final three roster spots, O'Neal and Duncan would presumably play out of position and fill that role.

Previously, USA Basketball said the final two or three spots on the roster would go to collegians or people playing overseas.

The team will play in a qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico in August, attempting to gain one of three Olympic berths available to the FIBA-Americas region for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Iverson said that the team has stars with big egos but that he could fit in.

"It's going to be a team thing," he said. "I won't have a problem playing the role I have to play."