LeBron, 'Melo, Wade named Team USA captains

SAPPORO, Japan -- A trio from the Class of 2003 will serve as the leaders of Team USA in the World Championships.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced on Thursday that LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade -- three of the first five picks in the 2003 draft -- have been selected as captains of the U.S. team.

"It was a pretty easy decision to select those three guys," Krzyzewski said. "From the very start they have asserted themselves and showed leadership through how hard they worked, their cooperation and the fact that they wanted to be like everyone else. They didn't come in as stars, they came in as members of the team. Everyone looks up to them and they look up to them even more now because they have set such a good example."

In the United States' five exhibition wins, the trio ranked as the team's top three scorers. Anthony averaged 16.8 points, James posted 15.8 points and Wade added 12.2 points and 4.0 assists.

"We -- as in myself, LeBron and Dwyane -- are honored," said Anthony, who was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the third overall pick in 2003. "We're experienced, we know what we have to do to succeed. I know it means more responsibilities, so we have to go out there and take care of business on and off the court."

James and Anthony were members of the 2004 Olympic team that won a bronze medal. But both did not play much under former Team USA coach Larry Brown.

"To not have had the best experience in 2004 and to now be the captain on the 2006 World Champonship team, well, this means a lot," said James, the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. "I'm very excited about being a captain because I am a leader. It's a big responsibility for us three being captains and going out and representing our country in the right way."

Wade helped the Miami Heat win an NBA title in just his third season after being selected fifth overall in the 2003 draft.

"To be one of the young guys with LeBron and Carmelo and for us to be named captains and to help lead the way means a lot to us," Wade said. "Being a captain means being a leader at all times, when things are great and when things are bad -- always being a leader."

Team USA will begin play in the preliminary round of the World Championships against Puerto Rico on Saturday in Sapporo.

Krzyzewski on Wednesday announced the official 12-player roster. Forward Bruce Bowen, a defensive specialist from the San Antonio Spurs, was the final cut on a team loaded with athletic forwards.

James and Anthony headline the forwards along with Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors, Elton Brand of the Los Angeles Clippers, Antawn Jamison of the Washington Wizards and Shane Battier of the Houston Rockets.

Bosh was also a member of the Class of 2003 as the fourth overall pick.

Wade will be flanked in the backcourt by New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul, Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter Joe Johnson.

Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic and Brad Miller of the Scramento Kings are the centers.

In the World Championships, Team USA is in Group D with Puerto Rico, China, Senegal, Slovenia and Olympic silver medalist Italy, which routed the Americans in an exhibition prior to the 2004 Games.

In 2002, the United States finished an embarrassing sixth at the World Championships, losing an astonishing three times despite the presence of NBA stars. It was more of the same at the 2004 Olympics, where the Americans lost three more games and settled for the bronze medal.

Only the winner of the 24-team World Championships and the Olympic hosts automatically qualify for the 2008 Games in Beijing. If Team USA does not win the World Championships -- which it has not done since 1994 -- it must qualify through the 2007 FIBA Tournament of the Americas in Venezuela.