MJ's Q&A: USA Basketball's Craig Miller

MJ's Q&A: USA Basketball's Craig Miller

How were Leron Black and the other players selected to be a part of the U18 team?

There’s a committee that is involved consisting of USA Basketball staff and college coaches. Their job is to stay up with players, review who would be potential players for USA teams and then ultimately select coaches and players.

What are they going to be doing during the training camp while they’re being evaluated?

Playing basketball. We do have some orientation for USA Basketball. Some players generally already have experience with USA Basketball, but we run the whole group through. We explain USA Basketball, what opportunities lie ahead, what the trials training will be like for them. Sometimes we do some specific meetings and discussions; one they’ve got planned is the psychology of sports. Primarily, though, there’s two long sessions per day. Those usually incorporate some drills. Normally at these types of events we try to put in an offense so it doesn’t become a freelance with guys just running up and down the floor to see who can get their team in an offense and who can function in an offensive setting. The committee is looking at players’ attitudes, their adaptability, how they adjust to being coached by someone else under a new system in a new role. You’re dealing with an elite, upper level of players, and a lot of times you have to see if someone can adapt to not being the scorer; maybe he’s going to be a defensive player for you or a rebounder. Those things are all viewed by the committee and taken under consideration. The fallacy here is you’re not necessarily picking the 12 best players, you’re picking the 12 players that will make the best team.

Who gets to be in the gym to watch these workouts?

The U18 national team committee. Jim Boeheim is the chair of the committee. The other coaches that are involved are Bob McKillop of Davidson, Matt Painter from Purdue, Lorenzo Romar from Washington and then there’s an athlete representative as well. The four NCAA coaches have all coached internationally for USA Basketball.

If John Groce wanted to come out and watch Leron practice, could he do that?

There are certain NCAA rules because there are some high school athletes involved. The NBA asks players and coaches to come. It’s the first time they have in several years, so we’ve set aside a couple days, and that won’t be until later (June 16-17) when we open it to NBA teams to come watch. By that time we’ll be close to naming our final 12. The plan is generally the players arrive on June 10, we have an evening session that night from about 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. We have two sessions on Wednesday from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., so they’re pretty long. On Thursday we have a morning session that’s at 10:30, and we’re expecting after that one they’ll cut it down to finalists. Usually that group is 14-16 players, depending how close the competition is or if they want to get a good look at someone they’re not sure of, rather than cut them at that point. Somewhere along the line, as the team starts training for the FIBA Americas championship, they’ll cut down to the 12 players.

If a guy gets cut from the U18 team, does he have an opportunity to come back for the U19 team?

Absolutely, especially at this age level. Most times, as long as he has the right attitude and he’s competitive and he plays well, it doesn’t hinder his chances of being invited back. With the younger teams, the U16s and such, sometimes you have guys who are a reach to be able to compete at that level. Usually with this group that’s not the case. It’s not infrequent for guys who made the U16 team to not make the U17 team or guys that got cut from a U16 or a U17 team make the U17 of U18 team. It happens quite a bit because development is ongoing, they’re growing and so on. It’s always open. Additionally, they go by how the high school to college season goes for the person the following year. If they have a big dropoff or they’re not performing, they may not be invited. As long as they maintain a high level of play, they’ll have opportunities. It’s not like a last-chance thing.