Twenty four years old is the average age of a player on head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s United States National Team that is competing in the International Basketball Association (FIBA) World Cup. The team boasts huge names such as guards Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Stephen Curry and forward Anthony Davis. Every player on the roster is an all-star on their respective teams, coming together to represent our country in the “mini-Olympics.” This is a showcase of what the 2016 Summer Olympics could very well look like in Rio de Janeiro. “Lucky for us, our guys are very unselfish and seem to have a collective ego. I always tell them in order to win, you have to be worthy of winning,” Krzyzewski said in a USA Basketball interview. That’s exactly what this U.S. squad aims to do in a couple of days.
“It means a lot to support my country––to know that my country has faith in me as a professional athlete,” forward Kenneth Faried said. “As one of the few people to be able to put on the USA jersey and represent the country at the highest level, it is an honor.” Faried has played very well so far in the tournament and has been a spark for Team USA.
For those who are not familiar with the FIBA Basketball World Cup, it follows an identical format to the FIFA World Cup. There are four groups composed of six teams, with all groupings chosen at random. In order to make it to the elimination round of 16, a team must win at least two out of its five games. Once in the round of 16, it is single elimination until a champion is crowned.
This is important not only for the U.S. but for the other countries competing. It gives countries that are not traditional basketball powers a chance to fine-tune their game before Rio. It also allows players from countries like Turkey and Ukraine to play against the best in the world before returning to their European clubs. With the exception of the U.S. and a few others, only about one or two players on every other roster is good enough to play in the National Basketball Association.
Without major names like Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant on the roster, this is a huge opportunity for the NBA’s younger stars to showcase their skills and show they can compete on the international stage. It is mind-boggling to think of all the other American players that sat this World Cup out and how good the U.S. team will be in 2016. “We are going to cherish this moment, cherish this opportunity, I think this is really important for our team morale,” Irving said. “The competition is wide open but we still have some of the best players in the world on this team. There’s no reason we cannot go for gold.”