I think he’s more decisive and stronger — he’s a better player. With his own team and the coaching change, Quin will be really good for him in helping him improve even more. He can become even a better player since he’s still young. We like him a lot and I like his future, especially working with coach Snyder. —USA basketball team head coach Mike Krzyzewski
SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hayward has been selected as a finalist for the 2014 USA Men’s World Cup team roster and has a good chance to make the final USA team, coach Mike Krzyzewski said Tuesday.
Hayward was one of 16 players named to go forward to the next stage in Chicago Aug. 14 after the USA roster was cut from 20 players after a camp in Las Vegas.
The longtime Duke coach, who is the head coach for the United States team, praised Hayward during a conference call Tuesday afternoon.
“Gordon has been a part of our program and this isn’t the first time we’ve had a chance to work with him,’’ he said. “We think he’s one of the really good young players in the league. I love his versatility and the fact that he’s 6-8 and strong.’’
Krzyzewski also talked about the improvements Hayward has made since he last coached him in the USA Basketball program and commented on him playing for his former assistant at Duke, Quin Snyder, the new Utah Jazz coach.
“I think he’s more decisive and stronger — he’s a better player,’’ coach K said. “With his own team and the coaching change, Quin will be really good for him in helping him improve even more. He can become even a better player since he’s still young. We like him a lot and I like his future, especially working with coach Snyder.’’
Hayward’s chances of making the team were enhanced by the unfortunate injury to Indiana forward Paul George Friday night, since the two are both 6-8 and play the same small forward position. George fractured his right leg in the scrimmage and is expected to miss the upcoming NBA season (in that shortened scrimmage, Hayward had seven points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals).
“That doesn’t mean (Hayward) wouldn’t have gone forward anyway, but that will get him even closer,’’ Krzyzewski said. “His versatility is really something that we like and his toughness. He will continue to grow. Like all these guys, he has a chance to make this team.’’
A couple of players with local interest who will be joining Hayward in Chicago will be former Weber State guard Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and former Utah Jazz guard Kyle Korver, who now plays with Atlanta.
Other players selected include Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Houston’s James Harden, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Dallas’ Chandler Parsons, Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Golden State’s Klay Thompson.
Among the players who didn’t make the final cut were Washington’s John Wall and Bradley Beal and former Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap, now with the Atlanta Hawks.
The USA finalists will practice Aug. 14-15 in Chicago and then play an exhibition game against Brazil in the United Center on Aug. 16 at 7 p.m.
The World Cup will be played in Spain Aug. 30 to Sept. 14 with 24 teams from around the world competing. The USA team will initially compete in Group C with Finland, New Zealand, Turkey, Ukraine and Dominican Republic.