<
>

Washington's exit was surprise to many

Phil Martelli finished his individual interviews with each of the 16 finalists for the U.S. Under-21 National Team around 11:30 p.m. Central Time Wednesday night.

There was a good chance he wasn't going to sleep much after making some of the toughest decisions in his coaching career.

Martelli, the Saint Joseph's coach who is the head coach of the Under-21 team for the World Championships in Argentina next month, delivered the news to the 12 players who will attempt to win gold and the four players who didn't make the cut.

The list will surprise plenty of basketball folks who have been following the sport the past year, those in Dallas for the tryouts and the coaches of the players who didn't make the team.

Martelli, in consultation with assistants Bruiser Flint (Drexel) and Dennis Felton (Georgia), as well as USA Basketball selection committee chair Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, cut Memphis sophomore point guard Darius Washington, Boston College junior wing Jared Dudley, Oregon junior point guard Aaron Brooks and Arkansas junior wing Ronnie Brewer.

The 12 players who will seek gold are point guards junior Marcus Williams (Connecticut), sophomore Rajon Rondo (Kentucky) and senior Mardy Collins (Temple); senior shooting guards J.J. Redick (Duke), Justin Gray (Wake Forest), Allan Ray (Villanova) and sophomore Rudy Gay (Connecticut); forwards sophomore Glen Davis (LSU), senior Taj Gray (Oklahoma), senior Curtis Withers (Charlotte), junior Terrence Roberts (Syracuse) and junior Nick Fazekas (Nevada).

"I'm drained," Martelli said after meeting with each of the 16 players. USA Basketball cut Michigan State junior guard Shannon Brown last Saturday. Three other players withdrew due to injury: Connecticut junior center Josh Boone (back), Kansas sophomore center C.J. Giles (hip) and Oklahoma State sophomore guard JamesOn Curry (knee).

"I haven't had to make cuts in some 20 years since I was a high school coach," Martelli said. "There were two nights on this trip where I didn't sleep a wink. [Tuesday night] going into cut down day [Wednesday] and last Saturday after we cut it down from 20 to 16. I never wanted to hurt anybody's feelings."

Collins, along with Brewer, were the last two additions to the tryout roster after Oregon sophomore guard Malik Hairston and Memphis senior Rodney Carney pulled out due to injuries to their groin and ribs, respectively.

Yet, Collins probably made the most improvement of any other player during the seven days of tryouts.

"I was very familiar with his game and the way he started out was uncharacteristic," Martelli said. "He has slowly climbed. He shot the ball extremely well, shooting 58-59 percent [in practice] and led us in steals and got a handful of rebounds."

Collins, who can play at least two, possibly three positions around the perimeter, was apparently the last player to make the team over Dudley.

"Position, position, position," Martelli said of why Dudley didn't make the team. "He did all the small things that make your team win. Every coach said he's the kind of guy that you'd love to have on your team for 30 games. Some saw him as wing others as a big guy but he was undersized."

The stunner had to be Washington. Earlier in the tryouts, Washington was viewed as the leading point guard with his vocal nature, overall athleticism and ability to make the mid-range jump shot. He was assertive and looked like the player who would lead this team.

But, apparently, that all changed in the past few days.

"He ended up losing his focus," Martelli said. "And there was enough of a concern as to whether or not he would maintain it over three weeks in tough situations. Like all of these guys I hope they use this as a motivation."

A year ago, Team USA coach Kelvin Sampson cut North Carolina's Rashad McCants, clearly one of the most talented players but Sampson and his staff felt like he didn't fit on the team.

Martelli and staff chose Rondo and Williams over Brooks, who was cut from the qualifying team for the U-21 last summer.

"He's terrific but we were looking for our point guards to change the pace," Martelli said.

Brewer got caught in a numbers game where there were too many talented wings.

Martelli said Brooks was the most affected by the news that he was being cut. Brooks and Washington let USA Basketball know that they didn't want to try out for the World University Games team that will assemble this week in Colorado Springs for the competition in Turkey next month. Dudley and Brewer said they had to talk to their coaches before making a decision.

Martelli said he has until Monday to decide on the starting point guard and defined roles in time for the Global Games in Dallas, in which the team will play three games.

"We'll have tremendous depth and if people try to identify who the 12th man is on this team then they'll have a hard time," Martelli said. "We'll have a commitment to defend and shoot and we'll have toughness too."

Martelli's night wasn't all gloom and doom.

"Everyone should have the experience of shaking Glen Davis' hand after hearing news like this," Martelli said of LSU's Big Baby. "I think my fingers are still numb. We all thought we were going to get a big bear hug he was so excited."

Team USA plays Slovenia, Lithuania and a team to be determined in the next three days before leaving for Argentina Monday. The championships run from Aug. 5-14 in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.