Mississippi basketball continues to receive recognition on the national level.
Last week, USA Basketball named 27 players to the 2015-16 USA Men’s Junior National Team. Veritas guard/forward Michael Barber and Columbus guard/forward Robert Woodard were named to Team USA’s U16 program.
This isn’t Barber and Woodard’s introduction to USA Basketball. Like many included named to the team, the two freshman competed in a mini-camp at USA Basketball’s headquarters in Colorado Springs last October.
“We had most of these guys out last October for our USA Junior National Team mini-camp and overall we’ve got a really good combination of good bigs who are very skilled, some good shooters and some very good point guards,” said USA coach Don Showalter said in a release. “So, we have a really good combination of players. This will be a good group to work with over the next couple of years, and I like our chances at the U16s with these guys.
“I know Argentina is going to be really good this year. Not only are they hosting, but I’ve heard from their staff that this is probably one of their best U16 groups that they’ve ever had. So it’s going to be a challenge from that standpoint. But I think size-wise and athletic-wise, we are probably as good as any group we’ve had over the past three U16s and I can’t wait until we get into camp to start working with them.”
Both Barber and Woodard are two of the 15 athletes named to the USA Junior National Team who will graduate in 2018. Twelve other members are from the class of 2017.
The USA Junior National Team will train May 28-June 6 in Colorado Springs, and the final 12-player USA U16 National Team selection will be made prior to the team departing for Bahia Blanca, Argentina for the FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
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.
Callaway’s Malik Newman is the most recent Mississippian to play for USA Basketball. Newman helped lead Team USA to back-to-back gold medals in 2013 and 2014 and earned MVP honors in both years.
The FIBA Americas U16 Championship first started in 2009 and is held every other year. Under Showalter’s direction, the USA has earned the gold medal in all three editions and compiled a perfect overall record of 15-0.
In addition to the USA, teams competing in the 2015 U16 zone championship include: Argentina (host), Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Venezuela.