TIREY: Rondo has good shot at national team

Coming up at the end of July, Kentucky guard Rajon Rondo will participate in the tryouts for the under-21 USA National team, who will play international competition in August in Argentina.   He is one of twenty-one players vying for twelve spots on the final roster.  The tryouts will be held in Dallas.

Coming up at the end of July, Kentucky guard Rajon Rondo will participate in the tryouts for the under-21 USA National team, who will play international competition in August in Argentina.   He is one of twenty-one players vying for twelve spots on the final roster.  The tryouts will be held in Dallas. These international competitions really help a player in many ways, none more so than playing against the level of talent other countries possess these days.  Chuck Hayes played for Tom Izzo and the Pan Am team during his career at Kentucky.  And Sheray Thomas played in this same under-21 tournament last year for the Canadians.  Let’s face it.   An extra month of playing in game type situations will help anybody. 

The head coach for the USA contingent is Phil Martelli, the head coach of St. Joseph’s.   Martelli wouldn’t even consider taking on the post until he was assured of the chemistry of this team.  “What I wanted to make sure of,” said Martelli, “was do we have the right mix of guys that would be enjoyable to be around.  You know, they are not really accountable to me during this time.  They are much more accountable to their school and their families.  The second thing I wanted to make sure of, was the intent to win a gold medal.  I think that what happened to the U.S. last year in the Olympics, this team will be looked at.  This is a world championship event we are entering into, and we are entering into tough territory with Argentina being one of the favorite teams.” 

Rondo has a pretty good opportunity to make the squad.  Martelli said another stipulation for him to coach this team was two point guards.   “One of the things that I have asked the committee to make sure of is that we have two point guards,” said the St. Joseph’s coach.  “Then I would like two guys around the basket who can get every rebound.  I think that if you can start there, and you deal with flexibility, you have to have guys really guard on the perimeter and take away the three point shot.  It sure seems to me that international basketball is predicated on the three point shot.”  Defense, you say?   Enter stage right, Rondo, the freshman defensive stud for Kentucky.  Rondo set a school record last season for steals.  And he caused headaches for every three-point ace on every team Kentucky played. 

While there are twenty-one guys trying to make only twelve spots, the only threat I see for Rondo at point guard is Darius Washington, Jr., from Memphis.  And Rondo seems to have a big fan in his corner in Martelli.  “He perfectly fits the bill as a point guard, because I think he is a pass first kind of guy,” said Coach Martelli.  “Everybody raves about his defense, including the NBA guys I have talked to.   One of the things that we would like to do with this team is to take advantage of what I think will be great depth, play up the floor pressure.  One of the things that I am going to ask the players to do the first night is make sure that they share the ball, so that everybody truly gets a chance to get evaluated.  Everybody talks Rondo up as a guy more than willing to share the ball.   I guess he has incredible quickness.  I have only seen Kentucky on television, so I don’t really have an up-close and personal view.” 

The USA Basketball committee makes the first cut in the tryouts, paring the list down from twenty-one to fourteen.  That committee consists of eight Division One head coaches, including Tubby Smith from Kentucky, Tom Izzo of Michigan State, and Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, among others.  The final cut from fourteen to twelve is made by Martelli, and his assistants, Bruiser Flint, head coach at Drexel, and Dennis Felton of Georgia.  Martelli made me promise to tell Kentucky basketball fans that he is not included in the first cut.  “I have heard only great, great things, and obviously, I have great appreciation for the passion of the Kentucky fan.  I want them to fully understand that the committee will pick it from twenty-one to fourteen, and that I will go from fourteen to twelve.”  I think Martelli believes he just may face Kentucky fans in the future sometime. 

Here is a list of those trying out for the team:

 

JJ Redick – Duke

Josh Boone – Connecticut

Aaron Brooks – Oregon

Shannon Brown – Michigan State

Rodney Carney – Memphis

JamesOn Curry – Oklahoma State

Glen Davis – LSU

Jared Dudley – Boston College

Nick Fazekas – Nevada

Rudy Gay – Connecticut

CJ Giles – Kansas

Justin Gray – Wake Forest

Taj Gray – Oklahoma

Malik Hairston – Oregon

Adam Morrison – Gonzaga

Allan Ray – Villanova

Terrence Roberts – Syracuse

Rajon Rondo – Kentucky

Darius Washington, Jr. – Memphis

Marcus Williams – Connecticut

Curtis Withers – Charlotte


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