Lofton misses Pan Am cut

USA Basketball has trimmed its roster for the upcoming Pan American Games to 14 players, and sharp-shooting University of Tennessee guard Chris Lofton was not among the survivors.

Lofton, a 6-2 senior from Maysville, Ky., was one of 18 players let go today as the U.S. roster was reduced from 32 candidates to 14 finalists. He was the 2007 SEC Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring at 20.7 points per game and in 3-point baskets. Lofton also earned second-team All-America recognition from The Associated Press and third-team A-A recognition from the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

The only Southeastern Conference player to make the Pan Am cut was Vanderbilt's Shan Foster.

Also making the roster were Joey Dorsey (Memphis), Josh Carter (Texas A&M), Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), James Gist (Maryland), Roy Hibbert (Georgetown), Maarty Leunen (Oregon), Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver (Washington State), Eric Maynor (Virginia Commonwealth), Drew Neitzel (Michigan State), Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), Bryce Taylor (Oregon) and D.J. White (Indiana).

Although representing his country in international competition would've been a significant honor for Chris Lofton, not making the Pan Am team could prove to be a blessing in disguise. He probably needs some rest, coming off an exhausting 2006-07 Tennessee season that included a severe ankle injury.

Playing basketball year-round can lead to burnout, as former Tennessee point guard C.J. Watson can attest. Watson spent the summer of 2003 representing the U.S. at the Junior World Championships, then seemed to hit a wall the following season for Tennessee.

Watson, who played 37 minutes per game for the Vols' Buzz Peterson in 2003-04, appeared to run out of gas late that season. In Tennessee's last seven games he had an 0-for-8 shooting performance against Georgia, a 3-for-10 outing against Kentucky and a 1-for-6 performance against Alabama. Those last seven games also saw Watson register a 5-turnover game, two 4-turnover games and a 3-turnover game. In the final game of the '03-04 season – versus George Mason in the NIT – he failed to record an assist for the only time in his four-year career.

If it's any consolation for Lofton, USA coach Jay Wright (Villanova) said competition for spots on the U.S. Pan Am team was even stiffer than usual.

"This was definitely the most difficult choice we've ever had to make," he said in a USA Basketball release, "but I just love this group."

The Pan Am Games' basketball competition will be held July 25-29 in Rio de Janiero. Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried will assist Wright, along with Yale's James Jones.


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