COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Last week I was on hand at the U.S. Olympic Training Center to watch USA Basketball assemble the teams that will compete next month at the World University Games and the FIBA Under 19 World Championships. Last Friday,
Not only did the trials draw 17 coaches who were either leading the teams or helping out on the court or selecting the teams, but also a handful of other coaches also flew in to watch their players in action. I couldn't get to everyone in just two days, but I did get a chance to take the pulse of the programs at Washington, Clemson, Oklahoma State, Gonzaga, Miami, Missouri and Wisconsin.
• Washington coach
It is fitting that Gaddy originally opted for Arizona, because his game reminds me a lot
Romar also told me that Gaddy is still 17 years old and won't turn 18 until early 2010. That means he can't enter the NBA draft after his freshman year because he will not have satisfied the league's 19-year-old age minimum. Just the fact that Romar saw fit to mention that should let you know how good the kid is.
As for the question of how Gaddy and Thomas will co-exist in the same backcourt, Romar reminded me that he has had that situation before with
As for the frontcourt, Washington has some decent returning talent in
"We have some really good pieces, and we have some depth," Romar said. "If we understand the commitment required, we could be really good."
• Clemson coach
The larger concern for Purnell is how he will replace the scoring he lost with the departures of
Purnell said that while perimeter scoring is a question, he expects the Tigers to be a much better defensive team -- a not-so-veiled reference Oglesby's deficiencies in that department. Among the newcomers, Purnell is most excited about
• Speaking of USC, I'd say the school did as well as could be expected by hiring
The biggest question will be whether O'Neill can recruit the high-caliber talent he'll need to get the Trojans to compete for a Pac 10 title -- and do it without running afoul of NCAA rules, which isn't easy to do these days given the way the amateur circuit is run by AAU coaches and their NBA agent benefactors.
The USC administration and its fans will have to be patient. O'Neill's rebuilding job is going to be as challenging as the one
• Oklahoma State coach
The Cowboys will still play Ford's up-tempo style next season, but that will be harder to implement without
Oklahoma State will have more size and depth than last season, but the Cowboys will also be younger. Based on what I saw of Anderson in Colorado Springs, I'd say he has a good chance to have an All-Big 12 caliber season. The question is whether that will be enough to carry the Pokes back to the NCAA tournament.
• Gonzaga lost four of its top five scorers from last year's team that went 28-6 and fell to North Carolina in the Sweet 16: seniors
Gray tantalizes NBA scouts with his size, his athleticism, and most importantly his butter-smooth shooting stroke. (He's a career 39.6 percent shooter from three.) The only thing Gray lacks is a superstar's confidence to go with his prodigious gifts. "We've been after Steve forever to hunt his shot more," said Few, who served as a court coach during the USA trials. "It's just not in his personality. I tell him, you've got a great stroke. Be aggressive."
The good news for Gonzaga is that junior center
• Speaking of Daye, although many NBA mock draft boards have Daye as a borderline lottery pick, I think he made a terrible mistake by staying in the draft. His apparent position in the draft is just more evidence that NBA general managers put way too much stock in predraft workouts. Daye might be graceful and extremely skilled for his size, but put him in a game -- especially a big game against a good team in clutch time -- and he's invisible. He has very little mental toughness, and I fear that will doom him once he enters the league.
One NBA scout I talked to in Colorado Springs pointed out that during one six-game span last season, Daye failed to get a single offensive rebound. "That's hard to do when you're almost 7-feet," the scout said. "That's why I think we should get rid of these stupid [predraft] workouts. They're totally meaningless compared to what these guys do in games."
• Losing seniors is a part of college basketball, but it's going to be especially hard for Miami coach
That might sound like wishful thinking, but Haith has some young players who have the potential to be big-time players. The first is 6-6 sophomore
Finally, Haith beat out UConn's
• Missouri returns its starting backcourt of
"I think we're on the threshold of really taking off," said Anderson, who was working as a court coach for the World University Games team. "I had some decisions to make and I left some things (read: money) on the table, but the administration was great to me and my staff. At the end of the day, I felt comfortable with my decision."
Unfortunately, among those who didn't return to Columbia were the Tigers' top two scorers,
"We're going to be the hunted now. That will be a challenge," he said. "We had a lot of young guys get quality minutes last year. Now they have an opportunity to step to the forefront."
• It's rare that any player enters
To be sure, that won't be easy to do because the Big Ten is going to be deeper, older and much more competitive than it was last year, when it sent seven teams into the NCAA tournament. Besides his incoming freshmen, Ryan will also be able to use two other freshmen who redshirted last year --
As for his role in coaching the World University Games for USA Basketball, Ryan told me that he is teaching the team a zone defense, even though he said he has never played a single possession of zone in his coaching career. "I was advised that if you're playing in these international games, and the other team scores on three or four straight possessions, sometimes you've got to go zone just to switch things up," Ryan said. "