Pan Am Trials: From The Chairman

By David Scott - July 13, 2007


HAVERFORD, Pa. -- He laughs the way Jim Boeheim has been seen laughing on more and more occasions since his own personal Mardi Gras in 2003 at the Final Four. The truth is, Boeheim probably laughed quite a bit before Carmelo delivered the Dance trophy to The Dome. It's just that we notice it more now and contrast it to the whine and scowl he wore for all those years of near-misses and woulda-shoulda-couldas.

He laughs the way the Chairman of the Board should laugh when a baksetball lifer is asked when he was bitten by the USA Basketball bug.

"It's been so long ago I can't remember," says the Collegiate Committee Chairman and the man who will lead the trimming of 30 of the nation's best collegiate players into Sunday's 12-man roster, which will then compete in Rio De Janiero at the Pan American Games.

Boeheim traces his start with USA Basketball all the way back to his first years in coaching, some 25 years ago. "I started with the US Sports Festival (in 1982) and then Gene Keady took me as an assistant to the World University Games (1989) and Mike (Krzyzewski) took me to the World Championships and the University Games in the same year (1990) - that was a long summer."

Boeheim led the 1998 USA Junior World Championship team to Gold and won silver and gold in his next two head red, white and blue gigs (2000 and 2001). Now, he's the guy in charge of the sometimes scrutinized selection process, not to mention the invite process.

"We got a lot of the top players - there's always a few who don't come," said Boeheim, likely referring to players such as Tyler Hansbrough (UNC), Ty Lawson (UNC) and Darren Collison (UCLA). "I watched Washington State four or five times during the year and I really liked those two kids (Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low), that's why I asked them to come out. There's a lot of talent here."

While the 30 invitees can be a bit unwieldy, Boeheim likes the competition that gets generated through the five evaluation sessions.

"It takes all five sessions to (figure it out)," said Boeheim. "I think everyone that watches the sessions (wrote down 12 guys) you would have eight or nine guys that are all the same on every list. So it becomes, what's the last three or four?"

Indeed, at this point, we feel realtively safe in locking in the seven names of Roy Hibbert, Drew Neitzel, DJ White, Joey Dorsey, Shan Foster, DeMarcus Nelson and Wayne Ellington. Alonzo gee and James Gist are also right there. But after that, there are still spots to be won.

"My feeling is you've got to do something here and then you can look at the other (in-season) stuff," said Boeheim. "Like DJ White wasn't that good tonight, and he was good last night, but we know what he can do from watching him during the season. A guy like Josh Carter (Texas A&M), he's a 50 percent 3-point shooter in 30-something games (86 of 172 in 34 starts last year at A&M), so you know he can shoot even if he's not shooting that well here. Guys will start shooting better after a few days.

"Two guys who weren't even on the board yesterday (believed to be UNC's Wayne Ellington and VCU's Eric Maynor) played well tonight," he said. "It changes. I had a guy (on my list) go from 15 to 8 from Thursday to Friday - they jump up and down.

"People think it's political," said Boeheim. "I coached three teams and I never had a Syracuse player on my roster.
I'm in charge of this committee and I'm not going to let it be political. But a lot of these guys are close in talent. It's a little arbitrary at the end. It's a matter of what do you want? A defender? Do you want a big guy? Do you want an extra point guard?"

Sometime on Saturday night or early Sunday morning, Boeheim and his Committee of Eight will make those tough calls and choose the 12 players who will pan for Pan Am Gold on behalf of the United States.

But make no mistake about it, this will be Jim Boeheim's team the same way the Orange are his program: Inseparably and without much doubt.

. . . Boeheim indicated that he liked the way Joey Dorsey of Memphis has been playing and was also impressed with Vanderbilt's Shan Foster's game. As for his own guard Eric Devendorf, Boeheim admitted his junior-to-be "hasn't played great," but attributed some of that to Devendorf playing out of position a lot as a point guard. The camp lacks more than a few TRUE point guards so some players are being drawn into uncharted waters. So far Drew Neitzel has been far and away the best floor leader and Maynor could very well be a legit No. 2 on that list, especially with his pinball wizardry in the lane.

. . . Wright on the Memphis big fella who is famous for his calling out of Greg Oden during last year's Tournament: "Dorsey is a fun guy. He really is. He's a man, I'll tell you what, he's a man. He competes. I like him."

. . . The original plan of cutting from 30 to 16 to 12 seems to be in flux and we're hearing that the cut will be made directly to 12 with Sunday morning's announcement. That would seem to be what both Boeheim and Wright are leaning towards and it does make things a bit smoother in terms of transitioning into actual game preparation.

. . . Golfer Jim was able to squeeze in 13 holes at the nearby Merion Golf Club with an assist from Temple's Fran Dunphy, who played with Boeheim and some club pros before cutting the round short. "I had five pars, 1 birdie, 6 bogies and 1 double bogey," said Boeheim who was quite proud of himself for skipping holes 14-18.

. . . Check back for updates during the day on Saturday, followed by Sunday's team announcement which should come before 10 a.m. on Sunday. On Monday we will offer up our camp re-cap and look at the team which will head to Rio.

So keep on checking in for all the mayhem and mischief that could ensue any time Hang Time is on-site and on-call.

Posted by David Scott at 11:39 PM on July 13, 2007
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