June 11, 2012
Madison, Wis. -- After securing Sheboygan Lutheran's first WIAA State title this past season, incoming freshman Sam Dekker will have the opportunity to bring home some hardware for the U.S., as he was recently named to the 12-man USA Basketball Men's U18 National Team roster.
After spending the last week at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., competing against some of the nation's top 18-year-old and younger players, Dekker, along with the rest of his teammates, will now prepare for the upcoming 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, which will be played June 16-20 in Sao Sebastiáo do Paraiso, Brazil. The U.S. team will continue to train through June 11 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., and will depart June 12 for Brazil.
"It's an honor," Dekker told the Sheboygan Press. "It's bigger than anything I've ever done before. I feel very blessed to be in this situation. I'm excited to get to go to Brazil. We have 12 good players suiting up for us. We know what we need to do to get a gold medal. It's going to be a different environment and it's going to be an experience I'll always remember."
Eight teams will compete in the 2012 U18 Americas zone qualifier, including the USA, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. The top four finishing teams in the tournament will qualify for next summer's 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship.
Team USA will open play against the U.S. Virgin Islands on June 16 (Noon CT), followed by Mexico on June 17 (Noon CT) and Brazil on June 18 (4 p.m. CT). The top two teams from Group A and Group B will advance to play for 1st-4th place, while the No. 3 and No. 4 ranked teams play out for 5th-8th place. The semifinals will be played on June 19, and the gold medal game will be contested on June 20.
Also named a member of the USA Basketball Men's U18 National Team were: Nathaniel Britt, II (Gonzaga H.S., D.C./Upper Marlboro, Md.), Shaq Goodwin(Southwest DeKalb H.S./Decatur, Ga.); Jerami Grant(DeMatha Catholic/Bowie, Md.), Montrezl Harrell(Hargrave Military Academy/Tarboro, N.C.), Jake Layman(King Phillip Regional H.S./Wrentham, Mass.), Rodney Purvis (Upper Room Christian/Raleigh, N.C.), Julius Randle (Prestonwood Christian Academy/ McKinney, Texas), James Robinson (DeMatha Catholic H.S./Mitchellville, Md.), Marcus Smart (Marcus H.S./Flower Mound, Texas), Jarnell Stokes (Memphis, Tenn.) and Rasheed Sulaimon (Strake Jesuit College Prep/Houston, Texas).
The 2012 USA U18 National Team is being led by a trio of experienced and successful college coaches, including USA head coach Billy Donovan of the University of Florida. Assisting Donovan along the sidelines are Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and Shaka Smart from Virginia Commonwealth.
"I think we've got some balance, we've got some versatility, we can move guys to some different positions. This has been a group that has picked up things pretty well so far so I'm excited about it," said Donovan. "The thing I've been most impressed with since we started is just their attitudes. It seems like we've got really good chemistry, they get along real well, they seem to be a cohesive group.
"I think we have to play up tempo; we have to offensive rebound; and I think the other thing for our team that we have to get better at is taking care of the basketball. I think when you've got a lot of players that are thrown together and are now starting to play, they don't really know each other.
"But I definitely think rebounding and transition are going to be important keys, and I also think defensively how well we can guard the 3-point line," added Donovan.
In the hunt for a sixth gold medal, USA men's teams are 38-2 overall in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship (formerly known as the Junior World Championship Qualifier), and have won gold in 1990, 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2010, silver in 2008 and bronze in 2002.
The USA is the reigning champion from the 2010 U18 tournament, when Quincy Miller (Baylor) hit a game winning 3-pointer to help down Brazil, 81-78. The USA brought home silver in 2008 after falling to host Argentina despite a tournament MVP performance by Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats).
Former U.S. players of note in the U18 championship include: Carmelo Anthony (2002); Chris Bosh (2002); Spencer Hawes (2006); Grant Hill (1990); Andre Iguodala (2002); Kyrie Irving (2010); Austin Rivers (2010); Kyle Singler (2006); Walker (2008); and Deron Williams (2002).