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."
This year, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and the country’s biggest stars won’t be in Las Vegas, but Favors recalled that even scoring just four points against the elite players felt like scoring 20.
"Basically, it was that hard to score against them," Favors said. "It was an eye-opener, let you know that you are good but there are people out there that are way better and you need to work more."
NOTES: The players will have three days of closed practices at UNLV, beginning Monday afternoon. An intrasquad game Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Arena will be open to the public and broadcast live on NBA-TV (7 p.m. MT). Smart and Creighton forward Doug McDermott are the only college players participating this week. ... Twenty-one players have USA Basketball experience, but Davis is the only participant who was on the 2012 Olympic team.
2013 USA Basketball men's national team mini-camp roster
Ryan Anderson F 6-10, 240 (New Orleans Pelicans)
Harrison Barnes F 6-8, 210 (Golden State Warriors)
Bradley Beal G 6-5, 207 (Washington Wizards)
Mike Conley G 6-1, 185 (Memphis Grizzlies)
DeMarcus Cousins C 6-11, 270(Sacramento Kings)
Anthony Davis F/C 6-10, 220 (New Orleans Pelicans)
DeMar DeRozan G 6-7, 216 (Toronto Raptors)
Andre Drummond C 6-10, 270 (Detroit Pistons)
Kenneth Faried F 6-8, 228 (Denver Nuggets)
Derrick Favors F/C 6-10, 248 (Utah Jazz)
Paul George F/G 6-8, 221 (Indiana Pacers)
*Taj Gibson F 6-9, 225 (Chicago Bulls)
Gordon Hayward F/G 6-8, 210 (Utah Jazz)
*George Hill G 6-2, 290 (Indiana Pacers)
Jrue Holiday G 604, 205 (New Orleans Pelicans)
Kyrie Irving G 6-3, 191 (Cleveland Cavaliers)
DeAndre Jordan C 6-11, 265 (Los Angeles Clippers)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist F 6-7, 232 (Charlotte Bobcats)
Ty Lawson G 5-11, 195 (Denver Nuggets)
*Kawhi Leonard F/G 6-7, 225 (San Antonio Spurs)
Damian Lillard G 6-3, 195 (Portland Trail Blazers)2 comments on this story
Doug McDermott F 6-8, 225 (Creighton University)
Greg Monroe C 6-11, 250 (Detroit Pistons)
Chandler Parsons F 6-9, 227 (Houston Rockets)
Larry Sanders C 6-11, 235 (Milwaukee Bucks)
Marcus Smart G 6-4, 200 (Oklahoma State University)
Klay Thompson G 6-7, 205 (Golden State Warriors)
Dion Waiters G 6-4, 215 (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Kemba Walker G 6-1, 184 (Charlotte Bobcats)
John Wall G 6-4, 195 (Washington Wizards)
Tyler Zeller F/C 7-0, 250 (Cleveland Cavaliers)
*Unable to participate
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org, TWITTER: DJJazzyJody