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Thursday, June 18, 2009
Final cuts made for hoop tourney teams

By Andy Katz

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The team the United States will send to the World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia, will include some of the top returning big men in college basketball.

Final cuts were made Thursday morning at the U.S. Olympic training center to get the roster down to its final 12, and the roster assembled by coach Bo Ryan of Wisconsin and assistants Frank Haith of Miami and Rob Jeter of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is long on height. Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado, the top shot blocker in the country, made the team, as did Clemson's Trevor Booker, North Carolina's Deon Thompson and Marquette's Lazar Hayward.

"I feel real good about this group," Ryan said. "We're going to be doing a lot of high-low stuff and I think we can have a lot of high-post entries with this group. A lot of them can hit the 17-foot jumper and get to the free-throw line, which is what I always like to see from the bigs."

The wings are extremely versatile and big, too, with Purdue's Robbie Hummel, Washington's Quincy Pondexter, West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler and Iowa State's Craig Brackins.

The selection committee, led by Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and assisted by Illinois' Bruce Weber, Washington's Lorenzo Romar and former Chicago Bulls and Duke guard Jay Williams, had an easy selection at shooting guard with Ohio State's Evan Turner and Oklahoma State's James Anderson.

"We're real versatile on the wings with Hummel playing the three and the four, Turner the two and the three, a lot of these guys can play multiple positions,'' Ryan said.

The toughest call for the committee may have come at point guard, where Villanova's Corey Fisher and Penn State's Talor Battle made the team while Arizona's Nic Wise, fresh off withdrawing from the NBA draft, was cut, as Battle and Fisher proved to be more efficient shooters. (Kansas' Sherron Collins was supposed to be the starting point guard but pulled out of the competition because of family reasons.)

No one associated with the selection was overwhelmed by the point guard position with Collins out, but Battle and Fisher are expected to suffice, considering the talent at every other position.

Ryan's squad opens with Finland on July 3 and plays South Korea on July 4 in the preliminary round before second-round play begins July 6. The medal round begins July 9, with the finals on July 11.

While the World University games team is deemed a favorite for the gold, the U.S. Under-19 team will not be picked to win at the FIBA U19 tournament in New Zealand.

The Americans suffered two significant losses when Wake Forest wing Al-Farouq Aminu and Kemba Walker of UConn, the MVP of the FIBA Americas U-18 championship last summer in Argentina, had to pull out. A third loss came when forward Drew Gordon of UCLA suffered a partially torn patella tendon his right knee during a drill Tuesday night.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon will head the U-19 team. He's being assisted by Purdue's Matt Painter and Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery.

The U-19 team was dominated by two schools not known for big-time talent at a national level: Washington State and Butler. Boeheim said that goes to show there isn't favoritism in the selection process. Washington State wing Klay Thompson and forward DeAngelo Casto made the squad, as did Butler forward Gordon Hayward and point guard Shelvin Mack.

The most difficult cut for the selection committee was deciding between incoming Florida freshman guard Kenny Boynton and sophomore Kentucky wing Darius Miller. Boynton started the three-day trials strong, but faded down the stretch and was cut, while Miller made 7 of 17 shots and helped his cause with his versatility on the wing.

Dixon said Pitt's Ashton Gibbs, Mack and Duke transfer Seth Curry will be the lead guards. None of them have been consistent point guards in their careers but will be aided by solid wings on this team in Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor, Ole Miss' Terrico White and Thompson, all of whom can handle the ball and jump start the offense. Northwestern's John Shurna and Hayward offer Dixon shooting small forwards while Miller could be the slasher. Casto, UTEP's Arnett Moultrie and Georgia's Howard Thompkins will be the go-to forwards. "We'll be able to score the ball well on the wing,'' Dixon said. "We can shoot. We will be able to put four guys on the floor who can shoot the ball."

Minnesota forward Ralph Sampson III, West Virginia point guard Darryl Bryant and Pitt incoming freshman forward Dante Taylor, a late add to the trials, were also cut.

Dixon's squad opens against Iran on July 2 in Auckland. The Americans then play France on July 3 and Egypt on July 4 in the preliminary round. The second round begins July 6 with the medal round starting July 11 and the championship game on July 12.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for