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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Thursday, August 19, 2004

Washed Out College Players

Would make a great addition to the US of A's Olympic team, argues Chris Ford over at ESPN. (A lot of things I am, but an ESPN Insider is not one of them. Thanks to my good friend Jason for the article).

Let's forget filling up our international teams with NBA stars and start tapping a pristine reserve of American basketball players that no one talks about. Let's have the role players on Team USA come from a pool of Americans overseas who happen to be international stars.

A number of American players are having very successful careers playing in the Euroleague right now. Former college stars like Tyus Edney, Scoonie Penn and Trajan Langdon are dominating. Given our lack of shooting and understanding of the international game -- why can't these guys get a spot on our roster? "People totally forget about guys like that," Pistons international scout Tony Ronzone told Insider. "They'd be perfect for what we're trying to do. European teams value them and respect them. They play against the top international talent every night and dominate. Why wouldn't they do the same thing in international tournaments. They're proven competitors against the top players in the world."

Why have NBA players just for the sake of having them? Especially when you can have experienced players who not only know the game, but have been dominating in it for years. Scoonie Penn thinks a different group of American players could lead Team USA to gold. Penn, a former Ohio State star and Big 10 player of the year, was one of the top players in the Euroleague last year playing for Cibona in Zagreb, Croatia. I got him on the phone on Tuesday. He too has been watching the Olympics. Unlike most Americans, however, he isn't surprised. "The European game is very different," Penn told Insider. "It takes a while to get used to. The zone. The lane. The refs. It took me several months to really get into the groove there. There's no way a team is going to play together for a few weeks and pick up all the nuances. That takes years."

Penn, like a growing chorus of NBA scouts and executives, believes that a few players like himself would make a big difference."We know the players, know the coaches and what they like to do," he said. "We know the refs and understand the team game. You can't be an individual over here. They beat that out of you. We've learned how to play the team game. We've really got the best of both worlds. We've played the American game at the college and NBA level and we know the international game inside and out."

As usual, Scoonie's making sense. (I miss ya, man). Chris Ford's "International Six" includes Joseph Blair, Tyus Edney, Scoonie Penn, Trajan Langdon, Anthony Parker, & Marcus Brown. Give me a few days and I might come up with a six of my own...But, in theory, Ford's suggestion makes a lot of sense. Former college stars now lighting it up in Europe know the international game better than their NBA counterparts. So what if they're not America's best? They're America's best at the international version of America's game.