30 college stars will vie for 12 spots

HAVERFORD, Pa. -- USA Basketball has never been this popular among college players.

And that's why the selection committee -- comprised of Jim Boeheim, Ernie Kent and Fran Dunphy -- has a tougher job than coach Jay Wright will once he has a roster to coach in Brazil.

In years past, the college-based national teams have had a few tough calls. Rarely, though, has USA Basketball had this many players (30) competing for this many spots (12) with such a balanced group.

"It is the largest group we've ever had," Wright said prior to the team's first practice Thursday night at Haverford College, a few miles down Lancaster Avenue from Wright's Villanova campus.

"The key here is to find the best team, and it's not like there are five or six players who really stand out above the rest," Wright said. "We need to find the best group of 12. It will be one of the most challenging decisions the committee has ever had. There are so many options."

Two players are abruptly out of the mix after Thursday's developments: point guards Dominic James of Marquette and Sean Singletary of Virginia. Both players declared for the NBA draft in June and waited until the final 48 hours to decide to return to college. But USA basketball had to submit a tryout roster to the Pan Am Games in Brazil prior to the withdrawal deadline. So earlier this week, James and Singletary were added to the tryouts.

But a technicality regarding the roster deadline meant that James and Singletary weren't on the official roster in Rio de Janeiro. So Boeheim, the chairman of the selection committee, had to inform the players that while they could try out for the team, there was no guarantee the Pan Am Games would allow them to be added to the final roster. Both players told USA Basketball on Thursday they would not attend the tryout.

"We respect their decision," Wright said. "It's a technical decision in international rules, but either way we understood what they decided."

So that eliminates two of the potential point guards. But there are so many other decisions. Does the committee go with scoring lead guards like Drew Neitzel of Michigan State and Scottie Reynolds of Villanova? Or do they look more closely at a floor leader like Washington State's Derrick Low? There is room for all three, since Wright wouldn't mind playing the style he employs at Villanova that features a quicker, smaller lineup.

This team has strong defenders to choose from like Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews, both of Marquette, as well as solid guards like the Kansas duo of Sherron Collins and Mario Chalmers or an upstart like VCU's Eric Maynor.

Shooting in international basketball is always a premium, which bodes well for Neitzel, Tennessee's Chris Lofton and North Carolina's Wayne Ellington; the shooting factor also could give someone like Duke's Jon Scheyer a better chance.

There are plenty of tweeners here to sift through, like Alabama's Alonzo Gee, Southern Illinois' Randal Falker and Washington State's Kyle Weaver.

The one lock seems to be Georgetown center Roy Hibbert. The other big men will tussle for the remaining frontcourt spots: D.J. White of Indiana, Jon Brockman of Washington, Ahmad Nivins of Saint Joseph's, N.C. State's Brandon Costner and Memphis' Joey Dorsey. This should be quite an interesting weekend.

The plan is for the team to practice twice on Friday and again Saturday before deciding on a cut of 16 Sunday. The team will be trimmed to 12 by next Thursday before they leave for a two-day sojourn and exhibitions in Washington, D.C. The next stop will be Brazil.

"This is about picking the best team for international play," Wright said. "There may be players who don't make it who will be better NBA players. But it's about finding chemistry that can play together and travel together.

"We're looking at skill level, toughness and experience since we'll be playing against older guys in a tough environment. Brazil is the favorite, and we're playing in Brazil. I want to find out our personnel. And then once we have that, decide if we're going to go quick or be a big, long team."

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.