COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. --- Justin Simon spends his nights squeezed into an U.S. Olympic Training Site dorm room with fellow UA commit Tyler Dorsey and UCLA-bound center Thomas Welsh.
When he’s awake, he has all of four practices to prove himself worthy of making the USA Basketball’s U18 team, which will cut down significantly from the invited 24 players on Thursday. Only 12 players will be kept on the team coached by Florida’s Billy Donovan, UA’s Sean Miller and Providence’s Ed Cooley.
Yet Simon isn’t complaining, or worried, one bit.
“It’s going great,” Simon said today, after the first of two workouts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. “Just playing against the top players and competing and getting after it is always good.
“It’s a great experience whether I make the team or not. It’s just a great experience to play for your country. That’s what I’m taking advantage of, playing with all this talent and picking the brains of the coaches we have here.”
Guard Allonzo Trier, a late USA Basketball invitee who just picked up an offer from Arizona last week, also said it’s been a great experience so far.
“It’s a lot of fun to come out here and compete with all these guys, and learn from the great college coaches who are helping us,” Trier said. “It was a great honor to be invited to something like this.”
Simon said he’s already learned some pick-and-roll strategy from U18 coach Billy Donovan of Florida, about playing hard from the coaches and even picked up a few things from a staff psychologist.
“Basketball is more than just playing and being athletic,” Simon said.
Simon said he’s especially enjoyed the chance to work with UA coach Sean Miller, after having gotten to know him well during the recruitment process but never on the floor.
“I’ve been waiting and waiting for that,” Simon said. “Just to get an earlier experience (with him) than some of the other guys have, me and Tyler and Stanley (Johnson) too. He’s been giving us pointers and helping us out.”
USA Basketball took official measurements of the 24 players in the training camp this week. (Heights are all with shoes):
Stanley Johnson checked in at 6 feet, 6.75 inches, 243 pounds (!), a 6-11.5 wingspan and 8-8 reach.
Simon and Tyler were both measured at 6-4.25 in height. Simon weighed 192 pounds, had a 6-11.25 wingspan and an 8-7.5 reach. Dorsey weighed 178, had a 6-3.5 wingspan and an 8-2 reach.
Of the uncommitted UA targets:
Stephen Zimmerman: 6-10, 241, 7-2.75 wingspan, 9-1 reach
Chase Jeter: 6-9.75, 226, 7-1 wingspan, 9-1 reach
Trier: 6-3.25, 194, 6-6 wingspan, 8-4 reach
Isaiah Briscoe: 6-3, 220, 6-9, 8-4.5
The USA Basketball U18 team will be hosting the eight-team FIBA Americas Championship from June 20-24, and the top four finishers will qualify for next year's U19 World Championships. All the tournament games will be free, though the training camp is closed to the public.
The U18 schedule can be found here.
Jeff Goodman ranks Miller 11th ($) on his list of the 12 best college coaches at developing players for the NBA.
The Orange County Register named Johnson its athlete of the year.