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USA Basketball Goes "Back to the Future" for U16 Tryouts

Correspondent
May 3, 2011 - 1:34am

USA Basketball is going back to the future for this springs girls Under-16 tryouts.

As always, USA Basketball is inviting 30 or so players to try out for the 12-member team that will play in the FIBA Americas U16 championship in Mrida, Mexico in June but this May 26-30, theres a twist. Anyone who fills out an application can try out too, as long as they pay their own way for the trip to Colorado Springs.

These kinds of open tryouts have taken place in the past, but USA Basketball finally stepped away from them, in part because of the inherent economic elitism involved. After all, a girl from a family that can more easily come up with the funds for a plane flight for mom and daughter, plus room and board, is much more likely to attend than a girl from a family thats struggling to pay the rent.

In fairness, though, no system is perfect.

After all, pre-selecting 35 girls (the number invited to stay in the Olympic Training Center) effectively eliminates every other young player in the country from the process, and USA Basketball officials are very aware that young players especially can slip through the cracks.

The selection committee, after all, relies heavily on college coaches for input, and though coaches have a very good line of juniors and seniors, they generally havent spent that much time looking at girls who will be high school sophomores and juniors this fall.

Theres also a chance that this open tryout is just the first step on the road to regional tryouts, which would be easier for girls to get to. A possible scenario would be that each regional tryout would produce a team of 12 or so girls, who would then go to Colorado Springs for a final session.

As it is, though, the 150 or so girls who arrive at the Olympic Training Center in May will get thrown into a tryout that will be heavily weighted in favor of guards and posts. The reason? Theres really not much that can be done in three days worth of sessions to really analyze that many players, so in the process, possession becomes more important than it should.

For example, a girl who usually makes 20% of her three-pointers might catch fire and make 50%, while the girl who usually makes 50% might make 20%. But the more time a girl has the ball in her hands, the more likely she is to be able to impress the five-person committee and the guards will have the ball more than anyone in what amounts to three days of pickup basketball.

And of course, tall players will always get noticed, and theyll have their chances to rebound, block shots and show off the occasional post moves.

Wings? Well, they'd better be extremely athletic, like Diamond DeShields of Georgia, or absolutely maximize their opportunities on the rare occasions when the guards give them the ball.

Regardless, the odds are that the final 12 (though a couple alternates might be selected) will come almost entirely from the 35 invitees, as otherwise it would make the people who picked those 35 in the first place look pretty stupid. Still, it wouldnt be a surprise if a couple outsiders slipped onto the final team as the goal of USA Basketball is to win gold medals, not polish the egos of its committee members.

And its expected that the players who play on this team in Mexico in June will have the best chance to make the Under-17 team that will go to the World Championships in 2012, though there will be another tryout next spring for that team.

Dont expect, however, to see open tryouts in 2012. With another year of observation, it will be much more clear who the primary candidates are, so any young player who wants a shot at USA Basketball should most likely take it right now.

In other words, for these girls, the future is now.