Youth abounds at U.S. minicamp

LAS VEGAS -- More than 20 players agreed to come to USA Basketball's minicamp this week, and most of them will be home next summer when it's time to play games.

The big names could come back then and reclaim their roster spots. Even so, the young players who committed to play this week say it will have been worth it.

"It's just an opportunity that nobody's going to not take," said Portland center Greg Oden, finally getting to work out with the Americans after being injured the last three summers.

The minicamp opened Thursday and the Americans will practice again Friday before ending the week with an intrasquad exhibition game Saturday night.

The goal is to play well enough to get invited back next year to compete for a spot on the roster for the world championships.

"Whether there's one spot open, all the way to four, five, six, whatever it is, we're all fighting for it," Minnesota forward Kevin Love said. "We all love the competition."

The core players on the U.S. team that won the Olympic gold medal last summer in Beijing have told USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo they are interested in playing next year in Turkey and in the 2012 Olympics in London.

That could leave as few as four spots available for the 20 players that were on the floor Thursday, but Colangelo had no trouble finding guys who were interested in coming to practice at a Las Vegas high school.

"They know there's not going to be 12 spots open, but they want to be in that pipeline, because the guys will not play forever," Colangelo said earlier this week. "It's hard to project how many spots we will have open. You just don't know. You need to have your replacements ready to go."

Colangelo and U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski met with the players Wednesday night, telling them to play hard and show them who wanted to be a part of the program. That may not do many of the players good next summer, but will give them a head start toward competing in future events.

"You don't know if six guys are coming, you don't know if three guys are coming back or nine or 12 guys are coming back," said Toronto coach Jay Triano, who is running the U.S. workouts this week. "There are going to be spots open and this isn't about 2010 and 2012. These kids are young enough that 2014 and 2016 are possibilities for them. So get in the pipeline now, show that you're interested."

Kevin Durant, who nearly made the U.S. team that played in the 2007 Olympic qualifier and often appeared to be the best player on the floor Thursday, seems assured of any roster spot that opens up.

Philadelphia guard Andre Iguodala hopes he gets his chance. He played on the select team of young players that scrimmaged against the U.S. teams the last two summers, and Krzyzewski mentioned him as someone who has shown the commitment to the program.

"You don't want that to be the whole reason, 'OK, I've been here three of four years," Iguodala said. "If there's a guy better than me, I don't want that to be a reason why I make it. I'm trying to prove every year I want to be one of the guys on the team because of my skills and I'm committed and they can use me."

It's also a chance for Oden to finally impress the USA Basketball leaders who invited him to play in 2006 and '07, only to see him pull out with a variety of injuries. He looked sharp during workouts Thursday, blocking several shots and grabbing rebounds of others that did get to the basket.

No matter what comes of this week, players said taking part was attractive just for the competition they'd get. Memphis guard O.J. Mayo said if they weren't here, many of them would be somewhere else working out.

"They got the best young talent in the NBA," Durant said. "We're the future and I'm excited to be here with these great guys."