Coach K: Team USA wants Drummond to be a part of its future

Andrew D. Bernstein (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Andre Drummond made the cut from 20 to 16 when USA Basketball announced those who’ll take part in next week’s phase two in Chicago on Tuesday, but he still faces a challenge to survive the final cutdown to 12 who’ll make it to Spain for the FIBA World Cup later this month.

No matter what happens this year, though, Mike Krzyzewski left little doubt that Drummond is going to have his shots at getting a gold medal draped around his neck in the years ahead.

“We see him continuing to grow,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday as he and USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo participated in a national teleconference. “This type of competition for him, in trying to make the team and if he makes it going forward, only helps him. He’s a really good guy and we want him – whether he’s on the team right now or not will be determined – we want him in USA Basketball going forward because he’s an up-and-coming outstanding player.”

The questions that will determine Drummond’s fate this year are (1) whether the Americans keep more than one big man to back up projected starting center Anthony Davis and (2) whether Drummond’s potential dominance on the boards and his ability to finish above the rim are a better fit with Team USA’s core players than DeMarcus Cousins’ more potent post scoring arsenal or Mason Plumlee’s experience with Krzyzewski after four years together at Duke.

“We’re going to look at all of them,” Krzyzewski said. “We haven’t determined how many we’re going to keep. We think (Davis) is kind of a different five in how he runs and can shoot from the outside and his shot-blocking, but we need more than Anthony. All the big guys we have are going to be looked at closely. We haven’t determined how many we’re going to carry.”

The gruesome leg injury suffered by Paul George could marginally improve Drummond’s chances to make the final roster. George was likely the favorite to start at power forward with Kevin Durant at small forward and Davis at center. Now Durant likely projects as the starting power forward. But against Spain, Brazil and perhaps a few other teams with more size available to them, Krzyzewski very well could want the flexibility to play Davis at power forward for a chunk of his minutes and thus require more than one other big man to play center.

Plumlee went to Las Vegas last week with the Select Team, younger players in the pipeline for future consideration behind the national team. But when they needed a 20th player to make scrimmaging more practical, Plumlee was elevated and played impressively in Friday’s Blue and White scrimmage that was halted prematurely due to George’s injury.

Here’s what Krzyzewski had to say about Cousins and Plumlee:

  • On DeMarcus Cousins: “DeMarcus had a really good week, an outstanding scrimmage, the leading rebounder and gives us a big that’s different than Anthony Davis. We are looking at the big position, the five, kind of separate from all the others. DeMarcus had a really good week. … All the coaches were really pleased with DeMarcus and how he played. His attitude is tremendous. He wouldn’t keep coming back to try to be part of the team if it didn’t mean something to him. He played well. He was talking on defense, he was our leading rebounder and gives us a low-post presence that gives our team a little different look and can pass off the post. He made a huge impact on all of us during the week but especially at the scrimmage.”

  • On Mason Plumlee: “He’s basically doing what he did his senior year at Duke when he was rated the top big guy in the country. He talks, he’s enthusiastic, rim runs, really runs the court well and plays good defense. Being around the Nets and around veterans only helps him more, especially being around Kevin Garnett. He’s an easy guy to play with for these guys. He’s a big athlete and hopefully can be a good defender.”

    Team USA convenes in Chicago August 14 for two days of practice before playing Brazil on August 16 at the United Center. Then it will be on to New York for two more exhibition games before departing for Spain later in August. The FIBA World Cup starts on August 30. Drummond would love to be a part of it. But with his 21st birthday still four days away, time is firmly on his side.