Columbus guard/forward Robert Woodard II has made final cuts for USA Basketball’s Men’s U16 National Team and will represent the United States at the 2015 FIBA Americas Championship in Bahia Blanca, Argentina.
Woodard, a rising sophomore, made the cut from 17 finalists to 12, USA Basketball announced via Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) June 2, 2015
“I know this was a tough decision for the committee,” USA coach Don Showalter said. “Obviously any time you make cuts, it’s a tough decision. You’re trying to develop a team as opposed to picking out the best individual skilled players. Sometimes people don’t understand that that enters into the picture a great deal. So, developing a team from 12 individual players is what they had to keep in mind when they picked the 17.”
Woodard heard his name called towards the middle on Tuesday after being the last player named when the team was narrowed down from 33 to 17 last Saturday.
“It was a big sigh of relief,” Woodard said. “All of the hard work, being in the gym twice a day even before I came to Colorado. It’s nice to see it paid off.”
Mississippi’s top 2018 prospect helped a rebuilding Columbus team reach the first round of the playoffs by averaging 15 points and 6.8 rebounds per game during the 2014-15 season.
Woodard and 11 other finalists will train twice a day at the United States Olympic Training Center through June 5. The team will conduct its final practice on June 6 prior to departing for Argentina. The U16 tournament will take place June 10-14 and serve as the Americas zone qualifier for the FIBA U17 World Championship, with the top four finishing nations from the FIBA Americas U16 Championship advancing to the 2016 U17 world games.
The Columbus standout is the first Mississippian named to a Team USA roster since Callaway’s Malik Newman helped the United States win gold medals in 2013 and 2014 while earning back-to-back MVP honors.
“It’s a big deal to be the only person who made it from Mississippi and that I get to go to Argentina with a great group of guys,” he said. “I don’t think of it as a legacy but I think of it more like keeping Mississippi going. Trying to show people that Mississippi can do things just as well as other states.”
Veritas School’s Michael Barber was also named to the USA Junior National Team but did not make the final roster.
Woodard is also a Mississippi State legacy. His father, Robert Woodard Sr., played for the Bulldogs from 1986-90 and is the all-time leading scorer in Mississippi high school basketball history.
USA Basketball Men’s U16 National Team
Jordan Brown, F, Woodcreek (Calif.)
Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Pace Academy (Ga.)
Jalen Hill, F, Centennial (Calif.)
Markus Howard, G, Findlay Prep (Nev.)
Tre Jones, G, Apple Valley (Minn.)
Kevin Knox II, F, Tampa Catholic (Fla.)
Jaylen Nowell, G, Garfield (Wash.)
Javonte Smart, G, Scotlandville Magnet (La.)
Gary Trent Jr., G, Apple Valley (Minn.)
Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Victory Prep (Tex.)
Connor Vanover, C, Arkansas Baptist (Ark.)
Robert Woodard II, G/F, Columbus (Miss.)