COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Point guard Tamin Lipsey, 15, likes to pass and he likes to move fast.
Lipsey, who already has an offer from Iowa State, is one of 30 freshmen attending the USA Basketball Men’s Junior National Team Minicamp with more than 80 of the top high school basketball players this weekend.
But as talented as Lipsey is on the basketball court, he’s perhaps more distinguished on the track.
MORE: USA Basketball Junior Minicamp Coverage
On July 9, 2017, Lipsey won the pentathlon at the USATF Region 8 Junior Olympic Championships. He also won the long jump, shot put and 100-meter hurdles while placing second in the 1500-meter run and high jump, according to Athletic.net.
That’s due to his speed and athleticism, also traits true for the Ames (Iowa) High School athlete’s NBA idol.
“John Wall, he’s my favorite player because of the speed,” Lipsey said.
Wall is one of the fastest players in the NBA – according to an October 2016 Louisville Courier-Journal article. Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks said Wall can get from basket to basket in about 2.5 seconds.
“Track really helps me with my footwork, and just speed in general,” Lipsey said. “You do a lot of footwork, and then that helps you stay balanced on the court and keep your speed and not go too fast.”
But track and basketball are very different, Lipsey said. While track stars rely on their athleticism, basketball is more of a mental sport.
“Everyone can have the same athleticism, but the best will separate themselves by being mentally the best,” Lipsey said.
That’s something for which a different player he tries to exemplify is known: Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul.
Paul, who has been one of the best floor generals in the NBA for a decade, reads the floor and thinks ahead as well as any other player in the league.
“There are point guards who see the action that can make the pass right now,” Doc Rivers, Paul’s former coach on the Los Angeles Clippers, told Sports Illustrated in 2017. “There are very few of them that can anticipate if they keep the ball another second, what will happen.”
Lipsey said trying to find an open teammate instead of looking for a way to score helped him to train his eyes to see the court.
“Growing up, I was always pass-first, so I’ve maintained that,” Lipsey said. “I’m not really just going to dribble up the court and shoot. I like to get my teammates more involved than myself.”
At USA Basketball minicamp Saturday, Lipsey showed proficiency making passes across the key and out of traffic when he drove to the lane.
This is perhaps the first time Lipsey is playing with others as good as he is. He said it’s been an adjustment, coming from Ames to a camp with the top high school players in the country. He’s had to stay humble.
“All these guys can play,” he said. “You just gotta separate yourself by the little things, like passing, defense, communication.”
And, of course, his speed honed on the track can literally separate him from the others.