Drummond eager to make his case for Team USA berth

Andre Drummond is excited for next week’s Team USA competition in Chicago after surviving this week’s roster cutdown to 16 players.
Andrew D. Bernstein (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Just in case Mike Krzyzewski harbored any doubts about his desire to be a part of the United States national team for this summer’s FIBA World Cup, Andre Drummond set him straight.

“It comes down to, do you really want to know,” Drummond said earlier this week on a brief stopover back in Auburn Hills between last week’s USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas and a charity event in Connecticut before Team USA reconvenes next week in Chicago. “They didn’t really sit us down. You’ve got to go ask. For me, I asked Coach K the second day. I said, ‘I really want to be on this team and I’d like to know what I need to do to be here.’ He told me three simple things: rebound, run the floor and finish strong, and protect our rim. That’s what I really tried to do for the rest of the week.”

And that’s what he did. Drummond wasn’t thrilled with his performance in the Blue and White scrimmage to cap the week, but only because of his inability to make a few shots he wishes he had back.

“I had a shaky game in Vegas, missing shots, but other than that I played hard and that’s what they really saw,” he said. “Shots will come – everybody misses shots. It was a bad shooting day for me, but other than that I thought I played hard and I feel like they can really use my size and speed and athleticism at the big man position to really help our team win the gold.”

Krzyzewski said on a Tuesday teleconference that it’s his intention, in concert with managing director Jerry Colangelo, to identify a core of seven to nine players as soon as next week’s three-day Chicago stay and then complete the 12-man roster with the most complementary parts. Drummond is competing with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee for one or two spots as the backup to projected starting center Anthony Davis.

Three players – Washington guards John Wall and Bradley Beal and Atlanta forward Paul Millsap – were pared from the 20-man roster on Tuesday and Indiana’s Paul George is out after suffering a devastating leg injury in Friday’s scrimmage.

Aside from the shots he didn’t make in that scrimmage, Drummond felt he put his best foot forward during the week, which included a spectacular blocked shot of a Draymond Green dunk attempt that went viral. His experience of playing with many of the same cast of players at last summer’s Team USA minicamp put him at ease this time around.

“The week was good,” he said. “I think I played really well throughout the week. I think I did a lot of good things out there. I felt like it came like second nature being back out there with those guys again. Playing with them again was fun.”

The fun ended abruptly, though, when George came down awkwardly and suffered what was described as an “open fracture” – meaning the broken bone penetrated the skin – of his lower leg, breaking both the tibia and fibula.

“It was sad to watch,” Drummond said. “That’s one of my good friends. To see that happen to him, it hit me hard. I saw it live. I was the first person to see it. If you watch the replay, you can see me literally jump off the bench. I covered my face because I didn’t want to believe that it could happen. I saw when the bone came out. It was hard to watch. But I talked to him (Monday). He’s doing well.”

Drummond and the other Team USA hopefuls left a somber mood behind in Las Vegas, but time and the encouraging reports about George’s prospects for a full recovery have him primed for next week’s competition in Chicago.

“I’m excited,” he said. “Just to be selected and even have the opportunity to play is really a blessing. Chicago is coming up real fast. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be a wild ride.”