Try as he may, Isaiah Stewart can’t seem to recall the last time he tried out for a basketball team.
Sure, it’s happened, Stewart hasn’t always been considered a five-star prospect, but the whole butterflies in the stomach and praying that your name will get called on final cut day is a new beast for him.
“It’s definitely been a while,” said Stewart, a forward who hails from La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.).
Makes sense for a player ranked No. 8 overall in USA Today Sports’ Chosen 25 for 2019 and being pursued by most of college basketball’s top programs.
Still, that kind of clout was almost an unwritten prerequisite for the 30 players originally picked to tryout for the USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Cup Team at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Tryouts commenced last Friday, but only 18 players remain after the weekend.
The final 12-man roster will be named before the team leaves on June 23 for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup in Rosario and Santa Fe, Argentina, which runs from June 26-July 8.
“I like trying out,” Stewart said. “They’re looking for the guy with the best attitude and the guy that works the hardest. That’s what I’m focusing on. I always say that no one will outwork me so that’s the approach I’m taking. I know I can help them win a gold medal.”
Little Elm (Texas) point guard R.J. Hampton did just that with the U16 World Cup Team last year in Argentina, and, yes, that was the first time he actually had to tryout for a team.
“It was pretty stressful because I didn’t know I was gonna make it,” said Hampton, who is ranked No. 2 overall in USA TODAY Sports’ Chosen 25 for 2020. “It was a good experience because you want to compete and you do whatever you can to make the team.”
Hampton contends that the process brought out a competitive edge that made him elevate his game to another level.
“It also helped me learn the importance of playing a role,” Hampton said. “In this situation it’s not about you being a star. That can be difficult at first but you learn fast. I feel like having tried out last year helps me. I know what they’re looking for and how to compete. No one wants to go home.”
Be that as it may, Jalen Green said the process of elimination is less brutal than it sounds. The coaches gathered all 30 players together and reassured them that no one is ever actually cut from the team because USA Basketball is a family.
“That was the vibe all weekend,” said Green, a combo guard at San Joaquin Memorial (Fresno, Calif.) who is ranked No. 1 overall in USA TODAY Sports’ Chosen 25 for 2020.
That said, even with the family spiel, players didn’t make the trek to Colorado Springs not to wear “USA” across their chests.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Green said. “That’s how it is the higher up you go in this game. It’s not saying that you’re not talented because everyone that’s here is a star, but coaches are looking for certain things. We have to fit what they want. That can be hard, but basketball is all about adjustments. We do what we have to do.”
Remaining 18 players for USA Basketball Men’s U17 World Cup Team
Scottie Barnes (No. 4 in the Chosen 25 for 2020)
Vernon Carey Jr. (No. 2 in the Chosen 25 for 2019.)
Joshua Christopher (No. 13 in the Chosen 25 for 2020)
Jalen Green (No. 1 in the Chosen 25 for 2020)
R.J. Hampton (No. 2 in the Chosen 25 for 2020)
Jalen Johnson (No. 11 in the Chosen 25 for 2020.)
Johnny Juzang (No. 24 in the Chosen 25 for 2020)
Evan Mobley (No. 14 in the Chosen 25 for 2020)
Wendell Moore Jr. (No. 18 in the Chosen 25 for 2019.)
Isaiah Stewart (No. 8 in the Chosen 25 for 2019.)
Jalen Suggs (No. 6 in the Chosen 25 for 2020.)
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY