USA Basketball announced its 12-man roster for the FIBA Americas U18 Championships on Sunday. The team consists entirely of incoming college freshman and incoming high school seniors, with a birthday cutoff of Jan. 1, 1996, to qualify.
The tournament runs from June 20-24 in Colorado Springs. Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Uruguay make up the rest of the field. Here's the full roster:
Most of these names will look very familiar to the sort of people who follow college basketball recruiting year-round. A few things jump out about the roster.
'Relative Age Theory' is in full effect
Most notably found in Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, Relative Age Theory suggests that people born earlier have a greater likelihood of success academically and in youth sports. The first thing you'll notice about the U18 roster is that everybody was born in 1996 despite the fact that younger players were allowed to try out. There were several talented players with 1997 birthdays cut, including fast-rising 7-footer Chase Jeter and Chicago-bred point guard Glynn Watson.
Beyond that, you'll notice how many class of 2015 players have birthdays that should make them one year older in school. Myles Turner will be starting for Rick Barnes at Texas next season, but he's actually younger than Allonzo Trier, a Seattle-bred guard in the class of 2015.
Trier, Tyler Lydon, Luke Kennard and Isaiah Briscoe each could have been playing college basketball this season, but instead they'll be finishing their senior year of high school. That's an advantage for them in making a team like this. It's also helped establish those players as some of the top recruits in the class of 2015.
The other class of 2015 players on the roster all have birthdays that make them among the oldest people in their grades. Jalen Brunson was born on Aug. 31, right at the typical cutoff date for schools. Stephen Zimmerman was born in September. Jaylen Brown was born in October. There are a ton of great players born after Jan. 1, 1997, in the class of 2015, but none of them are on this roster.
Turner, Jones and Johnson will star
- Texas-bound big man Myles Turner is going to have a very good shot at being the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, if he wants to be. Turner measured at 6'11.5 and 242 pounds with a wingspan a quarter-inch short of 7'4 at the 2014 Hoops Summit. He had a nice enough face-up jump shot to compete in the three-point contest at the McDonald's All-American Game in March. He also put his huge frame to use on the other end by giving Duke-bound center Jahlil Okafor plenty of problems in the post defensively. The easiest comp here is LaMarcus Aldridge, and it's not a bad one.
- Tyus Jones might one day be thought of as a trend-setter. If you know anything about Jones, you know that he and Okafor made themselves a packaged deal in recruiting and eventually ended up at Duke. This sort of thing is likely to start happening more often, because it just makes sense. Class of 2015 stars Diamond Stone and Malik Newman are already planning the same thing.
Jones won't be the biggest or most athletic freshman point guard in the country next year (that would be SMU's Emmanuel Mudiay), but he's supposed to the sort of "pure" point guard instincts people see when they watch Chris Paul. Duke is going to be even better without Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood this season, and Jones is a big part of that. He should start for the Blue Devils from day one.
- Sean Miller (who, along with Providence's Ed Cooley, is an assistant to Billy Donovan on this team) has quietly been building a monster program out West because of uncanny recruiting ability. Johnson is his signature recruit for next year, someone who should fill the shoes of Aaron Gordon nicely even if he's a different kind of player.
Johnson isn't nearly as big, strong or athletic as Gordon (who is?) but he's much more skilled. Think of him as a sort of poor man's Jabari Parker, a 6'7, 237-pound wing who can score from all three levels and using his strength (and shear mass) to bully small defenders inside. The Wildcats are going to be a top-five team next year, and Johnson will be one of Miller's best players.
All but two of the class of 2015 players are uncommitted
Joining 2014 Duke recruits Jones and Justise Winslow will be Luke Kennard, a 6'5 shooter from Ohio in the class of 2015 who has already given a verbal commitment to Coach K. Lydon, who has committed to Syracuse, is the only other player on the roster in the class of 2015 who has made a college decision so far.
It's no wonder college coaches of Donovan, Miller and Cooley's stature don't mind doing this. Miller is going hard after Briscoe, Brown and Trier. It's a great way to build relationships with young players and make first-hand evaluations of their game.
Team USA will continue to train in Colorado Springs until June 19. The Tournament opens on June 20, with the U.S. set to face Urguay. Mexico and Argentina are also in the group for the preliminary round before the knockout stage begins.