Americans at American

By Jeff Lippman - July 14, 2007


Forgetting about basketball for a second, one has got to think that the Team USA U19 squad is getting the raw end of this deal.

The deal I'm referring to, of course, is being sent to faraway Bratislava, Slovakia--portrayed in movies as both a breeding ground for deviants and a destitute old-world land where a little change gets you the penthouse suite at the finest hotel in town and lobster dinners galore.

OK, so it's not that bad, but compared to the luxurious resort destination of Rio de Janiero, where the Pan-American Games are being held, Bratislava must sound like a prison camp.

Regardless of destination, Team USA only has one thing on its mind, bringing back two more gold medals to go nicely with the one that the U21 team just won in Moscow, Russia--another hot travel spot.

For the past few days, both American teams have had the luxury of an actual top tourist attraction in Washington D.C. at the U19 and Pan-Am Games Training Camps.

The two teams have been practicing on separate courts at--fittingly--American University.

On Saturday, I was on hand to watch the teams practice and then scrimmage against each other and the result is two different, but equally impressive teams in their own right.

Pre-Scrimmage Notes:

--Clearly, the team that the United States has put more emphasis on is the Pan-Am team. And it makes sense, being they are the older, more experienced group. With players like Stanford's Candice Wiggins, who just won gold with the U21 team in Moscow and flew directly to D.C. to be with her new teammates, and Rutgers' Matee Ajavon and Tennessee's Alexis Hornbuckle, both of whom played against each other in last year's National Title game, this team is loaded with leadership.

Pan Am coach Dawn Staley, head coach at Temple, said without a doubt, the most vocal leaders on the team are Ajavon and Hornbuckle. Anyone watching the scrimmage and practices would be forced to agree. The two of them don't stop yapping out there, directing the other players and calling out plays.

Ajavon has her head in every play, whether it is in practice, scrimmage or the real game, and she is constantly calling out the play and calling for the ball, pointing out screens and directing traffic. Hornbuckle on the other hand, does everything right. She may not be the best talent, but she gets more out of her ability and her heart than anyone else out there. If you ask me, Hornbuckle just might have a future blowing a whistle as well.

--The U19 team, coached by DePaul's Doug Bruno, began their day running seven footers, a drill in which the team lines up in two lines under the basket and cuts through the lane taking seven-foot jumpers. They followed that drill up with the skeleton 5-on-0. Where five players pass each other the ball, with the ball handler being the offense and the rest playing defense.

It was quite obvious by watching these drills that the U19 team still needed to get to know each other better, as they frequently made mistakes and had trouble communicating. At one point, assistant coach and head coach at Prairie View A&M, Cynthia Cooper-Dyke bellowed, "Speak up!" to her players. And Bruno needed to reprimand more than one player to pay better attention.

--One tough decision that coach Bruno has on his U19 squad is one that any coach in the country would give a left arm to have. With four legitimate point guards, Bruno must figure out who to start and how to rotate minutes between them. Notre Dame's Melissa Lechlitner was all over the court and has the most experience of the foursome, but the other three--all incoming freshman next season for three early favorites for the national championship--will prove spectacular.

Perhaps the best of the bunch is future UConn Husky Maya Moore, who already looks like she's been playing for years and has the best basketball body of the group. But don't sleep on North Carolina's heir to Ivory Latta, Italee Lucas--they even have the same initials, weird--and Rutgers' Khadijah Rushdan, both of which were very impressive at the camp.

--After getting my first look at Duke's incoming freshman, the U19 team's Krystal and Jasmine Thomas--no relation--I have come to realize that Duke will be just fine without Lindsey Harding and Alison Bales. Krystal is a 6-foot-5 big body with excellent moves who didn't hesitate to reject any Pan-Am player who came into the lane, and Jasmine is another point guard-combo guard type who can dribble, pass, and oh yeah, light it up from three point land. Abby Waner has a new friend.

--UNC's Erlana Larkins did not participate in the practice or scrimmage, but did do some side drills with an assistant. She was not hurt, simply taking the day off.

--After only 40 seconds of scrimmage, Michigan State's 6-foot-9 center and member of the U19 team, Allyssa DeHaan, went down with an apparent ankle injury. She was able to get back up on her own volition and doesn't expect to miss any time. She did not play again in the scrimmage just to be safe.

The Scrimmage

Talk about your tale of two different halves.

Team USA U19 and the Pan Am team scrimmaged with two 20-minute halves, simulating international game play, complete with widened trapezoidal lanes and international rules-knowledgeable refs.

During the first 20 minutes a listless Pan Am team let a fresher, younger and more energetic U19 team run all over them.

The Pan Ams would eventually win that first 20 minutes as they--and Alexis Hornbuckle to be exact--took over at around the five minute mark, to take the first half, 33-26.

But the story of that half wasn't the Pan American comeback, it was how well the younger and less experienced--they have just four players who played college basketball last season--U19 team ran with the Pan Am team and had 'em on the ropes.

Led by new Dukie Jasmine Thomas, who scored six points on two long threes, the U19s proved they can hang with their older challengers.

The second half was a different story.

The Pan American team didn't seem so tired anymore, as they ran out to a 14-0 lead after the first five minutes. It was like watching a college all-star team play a high school all-star team, and that is essentially what it was.

The U19s would close that gap slightly but still lost the second half 42-28, making the final score of both halves, 75-54.

A dominant Pan Am team victory.

With that said, after watching these two teams practice and scrimmage, I think it is safe to say the world's best Pan Am team defeated the world's best U19 team, and I think that will be vindicated shortly when they respectively begin their tournaments.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 09:34 PM on July 14, 2007
Comments (2)

Comments

bratislava is the best place. I saw eurotrip too.

Jeff Lippman your a typical ethnocentric American who's idea of culture is sampling the odd ration of canadian bacon. What you seemingly know about Europe and the former eastern block countries i could write on a post stamp with space for an address. Apart from the obvious benefits of travelling; eastern europe and Russia have consistantly produced top athletes with minimal technology. It seems a pity that some in your position; whatever that may be, could be so ignorant and to base your opinions on Hollywood!!

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