Take-aways following the first cut

Take-aways following the first cut

Colorado Springs, Colorado – The USA Basketball U17 National Team went through their opening round of cuts on Monday morning after three days of training camp and now 18 players remain in contention for a spot on the team that will head to Spain in ten days for the FIBA World Cup.

The group consists of seven players in the rising senior class of 2023 (Dennis Evans, Jeremy Fears, Ron Holland, Justin McBride, Sean Stewart, DJ Wagner, and Wesley Yates), eight players in the rising junior class of 2024 (James Brown, David Castillo, Naas Cunningham, Johnuel Fland, Ian Jackson, Karter Knox, Tyler McKinley and Asa Newell), and three players in the rising sophomore class of 2025 (Cooper Flagg, Koa Peatand Bryson Teller).

The final roster will be cut down to 12 though with training camp set to continue later today at the US Olympic and Paralympic Training Center.

There are still some unknown variables as Wagner has not yet arrived in Colorado Springs while finishing his academic year at Camden High School and Evans, who is the only 7-footer on the roster, has been thus far unable to compete because of injury.

Tough task for selection committee

The biggest take-away from the training camp as a whole thus far has been the depth of the collective talent. While most USA Basketball training camps can be characterized by their overall competitiveness, the players typically have a way or separating themselves organically after a few days.

That did not appear to be the case this year, which ultimately is a credit to the collective group, but also made the task of the selection committee that is much more difficult.

There is no better example than Tre Johnson, a long and versatile big guard who played to rave reviews earlier in the weekend and looked every bit as good as advertised on Sunday night. With shot-making, fluidity off the bounce, and a ton of untapped potential, Johnson appeared to be one of the very top long-term prospects in the class of 2024.

He wasn’t alone though as Isaiah Elohim, Bryson Tuckerand Liam McNeeley all impressed during their time in Colorado Springs. Elohim had a strong session on Sunday, showing big-bodied playmaking from the perimeter and being competitive on the defensive end. Tucker was one of the more skilled big wings in the field with his combination of size and shooting ability. McNeeley was probably one of the best pure shooters in the field.

Battle for spots in the backcourt

Jeremy Fears and Boogie Fland Both made an impression in the final sessions prior to the cut. Fears has been making a clear effort to value the basketball and limit his turnovers. He and David Castillo It appeared to be the two pure point guards in the camp, and thus could be competing for a spot in the next few days. Fears even punctuated his showing with a massive dunk on Monday morning.

Fland, who is one of the youngest players in the camp despite being a rising junior, is known for his ability to shoot the basketball, but has shown the development of the rest of his game this weekend. His handle has gotten tighter, allowing him to create more off the dribble and play both on and off the ball. He also made a noticeable effort on the defensive end of the floor, harassing opposing ball-handlers and diving on loose balls.

One player known for his grit and two-way game is Ian Jacksonbut he continues to show off a better shooting stroke than advertised, just like he did at various points throughout the high school season.

Frontcourt standouts

One of the biggest take-aways thus far has been the massive defensive versatility of Sean Stewart. While he’s built like a power forward, with a visibly strong frame, he moves his feet incredibly well, both laterally and changing ends. He was picking up opposing guards in the backcourt and pressing the ball for the length of the floor. He also runs with massive, powerful strides that put immediate pressure on opposing defenses with the sheer force with which he attacks the rim, even without the ball.

Cooper Flagg is another one of the youngest players here, but he has been amongst the best rebounders, and on both ends of the floor. While he’s maximized his offensive opportunities, showing a high release and particularly good mid-range touch (especially when curling screens), he was also able to go get his own on the offensive glass and make himself a factor even when the ball wasn’t otherwise finding him.

Asa Newell has also stood out. The 6-foot-9 lefty has shown a terrific combination of size and skill to pose one of the more versatile scoring threats this team has up front so far. He is a shooting threat from behind the three-point line but also able to put the ball on the floor, both starting the break and in the half-court, while maintaining his balance and composure while doing so.

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