A change in the international schedule has forced USA Basketball to compete with young rosters for the FIBA World Championship, and the organization’s new leadership is equipping Team USA with the youth, size and defense to win back the title.
Grant Hill, who ran his first major international event as chief executive, on Thursday unveiled his team of 12 for the World Cup, which is scheduled to take place in the Philippines, Okinawa and Indonesia in August and September. The Americans last won the title in 2014, at the last event in 2019 they finished seventh.
The biggest challengers – France, Spain, Serbia and Australia – have an advantage of size and Hill and his first national coach Steve Kerr have made fighting it a priority.
In this approach, the centers are reigning NBA defensive player of the year Jaren Jackson Jr. (23) of the Grizzlies and defensive player Walker Kessler (21) of the Jazz and veteran Bucks Bobby Portis (28).
Hill and Kerr secured the signing of long defensive wings who are effective shooters – Nets teammates Mikal Bridges, 26, and Cameron Johnson, 27 – and strong perimeter defender Josh Hart, 28, from the Knicks.
Also, in FIBA, it is imperative that Team USA have large guards, which are an important weapon given the typical style of play. With that in mind, Team USA has the 6-foot-5 tall Tyrese Haliburton, 23, of the Pacers, 6-5 Austin Reaves, 25, of the Lakers and 6-10 Paolo Banchero, 20, of the Magic as ball handlers.
The Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, 26, is just 6-2 but strong and has excelled in FIBA play, was 2015 World U-19 Championship MVP and could play a leading role in this team. Haliburton made the All-Tournament squad when he won gold at the 2019 U-19 World Cup.
And then there are the scoring specialists: Anthony Edwards, 21, of the Timberwolves and Brandon Ingram, 25, of the Pelicans. While they’re not a group of high-profile names likely to fill the roster at next summer’s Olympics in Paris, they are a well-rounded up-and-coming squad. Haliburton, Edwards, Reaves and Johnson signed new contracts with their teams worth more than $600 million this summer.
But with the World Cup and Olympics now being held in back-to-back summers — a change FIBA made after the 2014 World Cup so that it’s no longer held in the same summer as the FIFA World Cup — top American players are usually limit their participation to one of the competitions, thus opening up opportunities for young talent.
“We are excited for the challenges ahead and excited for the opportunity to compete at the 2023 FIBA Men’s World Championship,” Hill said in a statement. “I am confident that together, and under the leadership of our outstanding coaching staff, this team will proudly represent the United States in Manila this summer.”