USA Turns to NBA D-League for Pan Am Games Glory
Twelve of the 15 NBA D-League finalists listed below will be selected to represent Team USA in the Pan Am Games menís basketball competition, scheduled for Oct. 26-30.
D-Leaguers still competing for a slot on the squad are: Blake Ahearn (Erie BayHawks/Missouri State '07); Brian Butch (Injured for 2010-11 season/Wisconsin '08); Chris Daniels (KCC Egis, South Korea/Texas A&M-Corpus Christi '08); Justin Dentmon (Texas Legends/Washington '09); Jerome Dyson (Tulsa 66ers/Connecticut '10); Moses Ehambe (Iowa Energy/Oral Roberts '08); Ron Howard (Fort Wayne Mad Ants/Valparaiso '06); Marcus Lewis (Tulsa 66ers/Oral Roberts '09); Leo Lyons (Austin Toros/Missouri '09); Renaldo Major (Dakota Wizards/ Fresno State '04); Donald Sloan (Reno Bighorns/Texas A&M '10); Gregory Stiemsma (Sokhumi Tbilisi, Georgia/Wisconsin '09); Curtis Sumpter (Maroussi BC, Greece/Villanova '07): Lance Thomas (Austin Toros/Duke '10); and Luke Zeller (Bakersfield Jam/Notre Dame '09).
NBA D-League Tulsa 66ers Head Coach Nate Tibbetts will lead the USA Pan American Games squad and thinks defensive intensity and good ball-handling are strengths of his roster of D-League standouts.
"I think our perimeter is formidable, we've got some guys that can handle the basketball and not just at the one, the two or the three,Ē said Tibbetts from the team training camp in Tulsa, Oklahoma. ďWe're going to have to be a team that guards people on every possession and were asking our bigs to do some things that maybe they haven't been asked to do. So getting that group of bigs to come along defensively is important, but we've got some bigs that can really shoot it and we're excited about that.Ē
Team USA will compete in Group B of the Preliminary Round, facing the Dominican Republic at 6:30 pm ET on Wed, Oct 26 (televised on ESPN Deportes). The D-League-based team will then face Brazil, gold medal winners of the last three Pan Am Games (1999, 2003 and 2007) at 9 p.m. ET Thurs, Oct 27 (ESPN2), before finishing up preliminary play against Uruguay at 6:30pm ET on Fri, Oct. 28 (ESPN Deportes).
Group A features Argentina, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
The top two finishing teams from each group advance to the semi-finals, while the No. 3 and No. 4 finishing squads compete for 5th thru 8th places. Medal semifinals games and consolation games will be held on Sat, Oct. 29 and the Medal Games will be held on Sun Oct 30 (Bronze Medal Game, Time TBD on ESPN Deportes and Gold Medal Game 5pm ET on ESPN2 tape-delay).
Team USA Pan Am Games HistoryFounded in 1951 as a way for athletes representing nations in South, Central and North America to compete in a format separate, but similar to the Olympic Summer Games, the Pan American games have been held every four years since the first games in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1951.
The United States immediately established itself as the preeminent menís basketball power in the Americas, winning the gold medal in the first five Pan Am Games, from 1951-1967, before Brazil took the gold in 1971.
During this period, Team USAís roster was populated by players from college, AAU programs and the service academies. The first time Team USA didnít take home the gold, in Cali, Colombia (1971), had a hint of controversy as Team USA defeated the eventual champion Brazil, but lost to Cuba. Based on point differential between the three squads Ė Brazil, Cuba and the United States Ė Team USA did not advance to the medal round for the first time in Pan Am Games history.
Team USA then won three consecutive golds in 1975, 1979 and 1983, before the current 28-year drought took hold, as Brazil (1987), Puerto Rico (1991), Argentina (1995) and for the past three games Brazil (1999-2003-2007) have established gold supremacy in the Pan Am Games.
The 1975, 1979 and 1983 squads were filled with several college players who would go on to big careers in the NBA. The 1975 team was led by Otis Birdsong, Ernie Grunfeld and Robert Parish. In 1979, Indianaís Bob Knight coached Kevin McHale, Ralph Sampson, Isiah Thomas and Mike Woodson to gold in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 1983 team, the last USA squad to win the Pan Am gold, featured Michael Jordan, Mark Price, Sam Perkins and Wayman Tisdale. The 1983 US team is considered by many to be the most talented roster ever assembled for the Pan Am Games.
Post-1983, however, Team USA has struggled to maintain regional supremacy. The 1987 Pan Am Games, held in Indianapolis, Indiana, featured the emergence of Brazilís veteran international duo Oscar Schmidt and Marcel Souza. Schmidt and Souza scored 55 of Brazilís 66 second-half points in a gold medal match victory over Team USA, led by Danny Manning, Rex Chapman and the U.S. Naval Academyís David Robinson.
The 1991 US squad took bronze as Puerto Rico won gold in Havana, Cuba. The 1995 US team settled for silver (the host Argentineans earned the gold), and a US roster consisting of Continental Basketball Association players managed to secure silver in the 1999 Pan Am Games in Calgary, Canada.
College players returned to Team USA for the 2003 Pan Am Games in the Dominican Republic, but failed to medal as a squad led by Emeka Okafur, Ben Gordon and Josh Childress and coached by Michigan Stateís Tom Izzo went 2-3. In 2007, Team USA had the youngest roster assembled for the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil and a squad led by Roy Hibbert, Scottie Reynolds and D.J. White failed to medal.