As reported here, the finalists for the United States World Championship Team assembled in New York for training sessions at John Jay College, the New York Knicks Training Center in Tarrytown and Madison Square Garden prior to participating in an international doubleheader to conclude the inaugural Nike World Basketball Festival.
After Friday morning’s practice at the Knicks training facility, Examiner.com was afforded an opportunity to gather the thoughts and feelings of several team hopefuls about what it meant to be a part of USA Basketball and the unprecedented World Basketball Festival in the Big Apple.
“It means a lot, man. It’s an honor to even be here, just playing with these guys”, said Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, one of four point guards (Chauncey Billups, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook) vying for a spot on the roster. “Just being here; everybody’s great here,” Rose added. “It’s a good attitude that’s going around, a good vibe.”
Boston Celtics floor leader Rajon Rondo echoed the sentiments of his potential teammate and Eastern Conference rival; who are only two years apart in age, with Rondo being 24 and Rose set to turn 22 in October.
“You know, it’s definitely an honor, obviously, representing the country”, said the Celtics emerging superstar. “Not many people have the opportunity to do what I’m doing or the fourteen other guys on the roster. So it’s definitely a humbling experience and I want to take advantage of the opportunity. I’m just very blessed, really, and just happy to be here.”
Out of the 15 finalists for USA World Championship Team, Memphis Grizzlies small forward Rudy Gay is one of ten players under the age of 25, contributing to an average age of just a little over 24-years-old when the remaining hopefuls are taken into consideration.
However, in spite of his youth, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer was fully cognizant of the importance and significance of representing his country in the upcoming FIBA World Championship, a tournament the United States hasn’t won in 16 years, and of being part of a Festival brimming with activity in New York City.
“It means so much to one, be a part of it in New York City; two, having USA on your chest”, Gay said. “It just means so much to me. My family, they tell me how proud of me they are and for the family I have in the future, it’s something for me to teach my kids about to show them what I did.”
But for Los Angeles Lakers small forward Lamar Odom, a native of South Jamaica, Queens, the experience of playing for the United States in New York took on a special meaning that can best be summed up in one word: “Everything.”
“It’s fun”, Odom added. “You think about USA basketball. You think about summer time basketball in New York City. The culture of basketball, being able to wear this jersey while we’re here. Incredible time.”
The two-time NBA Champion, one of the elder statesmen of the squad at the ripe old age of 30, went on to describe what it was like to play in front of an audience at Radio City Music Hall.
“We literally got to play on the big stage, you know”, Odom chuckled. “When you’re in arenas you play in front of a crowd; in Radio City Music Hall we played in front of an audience. It’s different, you know; but it was cool. Something I would love to do again.”
Although Odom was able to visit to South Jamaica with his wife, Khloé Kardashian, during his last visit to the Big Apple, he intimated that time would not permit an opportunity for another trip to his old stomping grounds.
“Not this time”, Odom said. “The last time I was here, actually, I took my wife to 165th Street and Jamaica Avenue. I had to show her where I grew up and things like that. But this time I’m spending time in the City.”
So whether young or not-so-young, native New Yorker or not, the World Championship Team hopefuls are as captivated by playing for the United States in New York City as part of the World Basketball Festival as the fans are by their presence and watching them showcase their talents.
Click here to read the original article on Examiner.com, which includes relevant links and a special World Basketball Festival: Day 2 video presentation.
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