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Team USA Practice

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Well, no Blazers news to report tonight so I went over to the practice facility in Tualitan (first time I'd been there... nice place) to check out Team USA's practice before this weekend's Nike Hoop Summit.

Essentially, this is our U-20 team; the entire roster was born in 1989 or 1990 (how old do you feel right now?). I will admit to getting chills when they broke a huddle with a 1-2-3... U-S-A chant.  Good stuff.

Here's a shot of the squad.  Click the thumbnail to enlarge.


The practice itself was fairly standard.  The team ran through some offensive plays, scrimmaged for quite awhile, and then went over their motion offense ("the two guys closest to the ball, set screens away... keep it moving"). The coaches put a huge emphasis on on-ball defense, continually coaching the guards to get up on their man in an effort to force bad passes and disrupt the offense.  The pressure style led to some turnovers, alley-oops and the like which should make for a good show on Saturday.

Names to Know:

Tyreke Evans -- Reminds me of Gil Arenas, real demonstrative with the ball and has a full array of offensive moves. Best and most confident player on the floor.
Greg Monroe -- Played in the Les Schwab Tournament over the holidays.  Biggest body out there, tons of athleticism, still needs some work but he will be good.
Al-Farouq Aminu -- Tons of energy, big hops, good court sense.  His brother plays for Georgia Tech, he's headed for Wake Forest and All-ACC is in his future.
Jrue Holiday -- UCLA committed guard from SoCal. Full package, great handle, solid lateral speed on defense, quick hands and feet.  
Demar DeRozan -- Compton High player has been getting a lot of publicity for his hops and his field goal percentage (something like 80% from the field in high school... seriously). I didn't think he showed much effort on defense and he had a number of turnovers; he does have huge hops and can beat people off the dribble with ease.

No Brandon Jennings, which is a dang shame.  

PS I saw Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen over at the practice facility banging away at a laptop, so look for a longer report from him sometime soon (hopefully).