Utah Jazz: Confident Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors hope to impress Team USA in Vegas
Tom Smart, Deseret News
LAS VEGAS — Gordon Hayward wrote a short Twitter blurb Sunday that seemed quite normal for someone his age.
While some of his followers jokingly responded with tweets like “throw 50 on black” and “I’ll be your wingman, you be my wallet,” this isn’t a normal trip to Las Vegas for the 23-year-old.
It won’t be for his Utah Jazz teammate, Derrick Favors, for former Weber State star Damian Lillard or for the other young men who’ve been invited to Sin City, either.
Spots on the U.S. men’s national basketball team are on the line.
The FIBA Basketball World Cup is next summer in Spain and the 2016 Olympics are up after that, and Team USA needs some fresh, talented blood in its system.
Hayward and Favors are among 28 young players who’ve accepted invitations to participate in a USA Basketball mini-camp this week.
No formal invitations for the national team will be handed out after this four-day training session, but players can certainly leave a lasting impression on USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“The players who are here for the mini-camp give us the opportunity to look at some of the great young guards, wings and the up and coming big men in the NBA,” Krzyzewski said.
The moonlighting Duke coach described the camp as being “loaded with exciting point guards,” including the likes of Lillard, the 2012-13 rookie of the year, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, Jrue Holliday and projected 2014 lottery playmaker Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State.
An enthusiastic Krzyzewski also credited the participants for including “amazing finishers” and wings with “phenomenal” athletic ability.
The 6-8 Hayward, who’ll enter his fourth NBA season this fall, will be competing against wings like Klay Thompson, Paul George, Chandler Parsons, DeMar DeRozan and Harrison Barnes.
Favors, who’s also logged three NBA campaigns, will have stiff competition in the paint. Top bigs at this camp include DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried, Greg Monroe and Larry Sanders.
“We’re hoping, like we always hope for, that a few of the big guys emerge,” Krzyzewski said, “so that we can counter what those international teams use against us. They have incredible bigs.”
Hayward and Favors both enter this camp with more confidence than they had when they participated with Basketball USA in 2012 on the Select Team that helped the senior team prepare for its gold-medal run at the London Olympics.
Throughout the 2012-13 season, Hayward and Favors spoke positively of how their Team USA experience boosted their self-esteem and level of play.
"I think I've shown that I belong in the league. It's something that you work for and you work towards. Now I think I know that I belong," Hayward said of his 2012 experience just before last season. "Now you push yourself even further, try and become an All-Star.”
And an Olympian.
Likewise, Favors said he loved the “tough and competitive” practices with the best of the U.S. It helped him better understand how he has to work to make it in the NBA, especially in terms of conditioning.
"I learned that I could compete with those guys," Favors said in an interview after his 2012 experience. "But at the same time, l learned that I've got a lot of work to do to be on their level consistently."
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