In 2019, USA Basketball will send a Gregg Popovich-coached roster of names every casual fan knows — some of the NBA’s elite — to China for the World Cup. A similar roster will then be on its way in 2020 to Tokyo for the Olympics.
But it’s a team of G-Leaguers who is going to get Team USA there.
FIBA — the body that oversees international basketball competitions — changed the timing of the qualifying for the 2019 Basketball World Cup from its traditional summer slots to fall and winter. Why? Who knows, they are FIBA, the only sports organization that can rival FIFA for ridiculousness. Of course, the new qualifying dates fall during the NBA season, not to mention the seasons of other major leagues around the globe, and this isn’t soccer so leagues are not taking a break to send players.
Meaning the USA is sending a team of G-League players to the qualifying tournament starting in November, with Jeff Van Gundy will coach them. Wednesday USA Basketball announced the roster.
Four players from the team Van Gundy coached to win the AmeriCup last summer return: Larry Drew II (Sioux Falls Skyforce); Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns); Xavier Munford (Wisconsin Herd); and AmeriCup MVP Jameel Warney (Texas Legends). They will be joined by: Markel Brown (Oklahoma City Blue); Semaj Christon (free agent); Jarell Eddie (Windy City Bulls); Amile Jefferson (Iowa Wolves); Kennedy Meeks (Raptors 905); Elijah Millsap (Iowa Wolves); Donald Sloan (Texas Legends); and Travis Wear (South Bay Lakers).
If those names sound familiar they should, there are eight guys who have had NBA stints on that roster — Sloan has played in 218 games, Brown 109, Sloan, Millsap 69, Christon 64, and Wear 51.
“USA Basketball has put together a versatile roster that has a mix of youth and experience highlighted by our four returning players from this summer’s AmeriCup gold medal team,” Van Gundy said in a statement. “Puerto Rico and Mexico are outstanding teams that are extremely well coached, and we will have our hands full in our games against them. We are excited about the challenge, and I know we all have great pride in representing our country.”
The USA has two November qualifying games: versus Puerto Rico on Nov. 23, and versus Mexico Nov. 26. There also will be qualifying games in February and next June and July.