Recapping Day One of Team USA trials

June, 17, 2009
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Of all the players hoping to make the U-19 USA team, Seth Curry was the first to arrive in Colorado Springs, getting in days ahead of the Tuesday opening of the three-day trials in order to get adjusted to the altitude.

The intent was to give himself every advantage possible to make the 19-and-under team heading to the FIBA World Championships in New Zealand next month.

If Curry doesn't make this team, he won't be in a competitive game environment with real stakes until the fall of 2010, when one of the nation's top freshmen of 2008-09 is eligible at Duke after transferring from Liberty.

Despite the advance prep, Curry was still wondering Tuesday when he would adjust to the altitude.

"It's tough," said Curry, who stayed with his cousin, Air Force assistant coach Steve Snell, before the trials began. "My dad said it was, but it was tough after going up and down a few times. I thought I was in good shape before I got here."

The coaching staff, led by Pitt's Jamie Dixon and assisted by Purdue's Matt Painter and Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery, doesn't know who will be selected for their team. The final say will go to a committee made up of Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, North Carolina's Roy Williams, Washington's Lorenzo Romar, Illinois' Bruce Weber and current ESPN analyst Jay Williams, who is the former athlete representative. But the unofficial consensus is that Curry has a tremendous shot -- barring an awful performance -- now that he is playing for Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, the reigning Olympic gold coach and still the national team coach for 2010 and 2012 until he decides he doesn't want the gig.

On Day One, Curry wasn't a standalone player. He was, like everyone else, trying to find his groove. Curry was a scorer at Liberty but will need to play more point guard at Duke. He was trying to find his rhythm Tuesday night at the U.S. Olympic training center.

"I was playing against Big South players, and doing it at the USA level and making a team like this and contributing will show people I'm real and that I can play," Curry said.

Dell and Seth Curry both admitted that it's a big jump from the Big South to the ACC. Dell Curry said he is likening the move that his elder son Stephen Curry will make from college basketball to the NBA after he is likely drafted in the top 8 next week. Dell said his son Seth needs the physical maturity of playing at Duke during his redshirt season, but making this squad will certainly help speed the process.

Seth Curry is under no illusion. Even though he said he had the invitation to come to the trials before announcing he was leaving Liberty, he knows the power of just being associated with Coach K.

"His program has a lot of pull," Curry said. "I know I'm going to improve in practice next season, but I need to prepare myself to jump to the next level and play against top players every night, not just a few times a year."

Curry averaged 20.2 points a game for former Liberty coach Ritchie McKay, now a Virginia assistant under Tony Bennett. He made 102 3s and had 79 assists.

"I'm a combo guard, but I've got to get used to playing more 1 this year," Curry said. "I'm going to have more scorers at Duke around me. I'm a good passer now, but I have to get used to trusting my teammates more."

Making this squad is just one way Curry is hoping to emerge from underneath Stephen's shadow.

"He always gives me a measurement," Seth said of Stephen. "I know how my game is going by him. Going to Duke will help, but I'll still probably be in his shadows because he was such a big name in college basketball. I made steps to get out of it this year, and I'll continue to do that at Duke."

• Kentucky sophomore forward Darius Miller is hoping to stand out on his own here, too. All the chatter in bluegrass country has been about who is arriving, not as much who is returning, save all-SEC forward Patrick Patterson. With the influx of talent new coach John Calipari brought in, led by guards John Wall and Eric Bledsoe and forward DeMarcus Cousins -- along with Billy Gillispie recruit Daniel Orton -- Miller has been out of the headlines. If he can he make this squad, that would go along way toward proving to Calipari that he can be a baller, too.

"I'm not paying attention to that," Miller said of all the talk about everyone else. "I'm glad for the team that everyone is talking good about us and saying we can compete for a national championship. That's my only goal."

Miller said Calipari told him that everyone will be able to compete for minutes. But he knows that if he can make the USA team, not an easy task with strong competition at his spot from players like Butler's Gordon Hayward, it would enhance his profile with Calipari.

"I think this would help me a lot, get me exposure and make me a better player," said Miller, who averaged 5.3 points a game last season for the Wildcats.

Miller said he could already tell how Calipari's dribble-drive-motion offense will benefit him.

"Just how fast we play and how much moving there is to create a shot for yourself and for your teammates," Miller said. "I think it will be a lot of fun and a fun way to play."

Miller said he wished junior guard Jodie Meeks had decided to return to Kentucky, because of his talent and friendship. But after seeing Wall and Bledsoe in an open-gym scrimmage, he's anticipating a seamless transition for the Wildcats.

"They were a good fit and the few times they were on teams together they played really well," Miller said. "We were all playing well, but we're not there yet, but we're getting there."

• UTEP coach Tony Barbee was watching his prized player, 6-11 center Arnett Moultrie, attempt to make the squad. Moultrie is a mountain of a man. He averaged 8.2 rebounds last season and grabbed 18 boards in a game against Houston. Washington State's DeAngelo Casto was a stronger body on Day One than Moultrie, but Barbee anticipates the Miners will be a team on the rise in Conference USA with Moultrie in the middle. Barbee is looking to pair him with Louisville transfer Derrick Caracter inside once the latter is eligible in mid-December. Caracter, who had constant issues with coach Rick Pitino in dealing with effort and his weight, has settled down for Barbee since he has gotten away from his native East Coast. Barbee is anticipating that once he has his full team of Moultrie; Caracter; guard Randy Culpepper, a 17.5-point scorer; point guard Julyan Stone (6.4 apg); transfer Christian Polk (Arizona State); and JC transfer Jeremy Williams, the Miners will be nipping at Tulsa's heels for the Conference USA title.

• The buzz on the U-19 team after Day One was how strong Casto played inside; the shooting from Hayward; the athleticism of Ole Miss' Terrico White on the perimeter; and the likelihood that without Connecticut's Kemba Walker (he withdrew), the team's best point may be incoming Florida freshman Kenny Boynton. UCLA forward Drew Gordon didn't do much after tweaking his knee. He had an ice pack wrapped around his right knee throughout the night. Pitt should be pleased with the size and strength of incoming freshman Dante Taylor. The 6-9, 235-pound Taylor will be a load for the Panthers once he's in shape. Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor had a smooth stroke and looks like a strong candidate to make the squad.

• Cutting down the World University Games roster from 16 to 12 may be more difficult than the five-player trim on the U-19 team. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, assisted by Miami's Frank Haith and Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Rob Jeter, watched intently during the scrimmages, and at one point Ryan interrupted play because he didn't like what he saw. He gathered the team together and made sure they were working the offense correctly. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Ryan gained control of the squad within the first hour of the practice.

• Kansas' Sherron Collins would have been the starting point guard, but his absence (family reasons) means the WUG team is searching for a new leader. Penn State's Talor Battle needs to be more assertive to wrestle the job away from Arizona's Nic Wise and Villanova's Corey Fisher.

• No one was more impressive Tuesday night than Clemson's Trevor Booker. He was swatting shots away left and right and ran the floor quite well. To Mike Tisdale's credit, the lanky Illinois forward got his shot slammed out of bounds but within another possession or two came back down and made a midrange jumper. Purdue wing Robbie Hummel brought up the ball a few times and could be used as a starter to Ryan's offense, too. This team has plenty of big bodies to choose from with Booker, Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, North Carolina's Deon Thompson, Iowa State's Craig Brackins, Marquette's Lazar Hayward, and even Washington's Quincy Pondexter and Hummel. And that was without Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado, the nation's top shot-blocker, who missed Tuesday's first session because of flight-connection issues.

• On-court coaches Mike Anderson (Missouri), Herb Sendek (Arizona State), Mark Few (Gonzaga) and John Beilein (Michigan) were helping coach the teams during scrimmages so the staff could evaluate the talent.

• A number of NBA teams had reps watching the scrimmages, including Utah Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor. The NBA personnel are taking a quick break from draft preparations to get a jump on the talent for future drafts.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer




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