Florida head coach Billy Donovan made the final cuts to the U19 Team USA team on Monday night, getting the roster down to 12 players.
The best known player on the team? Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, who will likely enter the 2013-2014 season as a preseason first-team All-American. Duke sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon, incoming Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon and high school seniors Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow are the most recognizable names.
The entire roster can be found here:
You’ll know most of those names, or at the very least they should be somewhat recognizable to you.
With the exception, that is, of Elfrid Payton.
Payton is a rising junior at Louisiana-Lafayette and coming off of a season where he averaged 15.9 points, 5.6 assists, 5.5 boards and 2.4 steals, the only player in the country to go for 15/5/5/2 last season. A late-developing guard that is young for his grade — he turned 18 during February of his freshman year in college — Payton signed with ULL because it was the only program that had offered him a scholarship.
“I have a certain confidence about myself that I can play with anybody and against anybody,” he told Brian Smith of Nola.com. “My goal was to compete against these guys and hold my own. Backing down wasn’t an option.”
Now 6-foot-3, Payton is a lanky, athletic guard that thrives on the defensive end and gets his points offensively by attacking the basket. When you look at the coaching staff that Billy Donovan has put together — two defensive-minded coaches in Virginia’s Tony Bennett and VCU’s Shaka Smart — his inclusion starts to make sense. He can score and defend three different positions on the perimeter; it doesn’t matter where he plays his college ball.
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When it comes to discussing some of the game of basketball’s best players, specifically those who went directly from high school to the NBA, a question that’s often asked is where said player would have attended college if forced (by rule) to do so. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are among those who have been discussed in this manner, and in the case of LeBron he’s got connections to two programs within his home state of Ohio.
LeBron’s connected with the Ohio State program, which is outfitted by the Nike’s LeBron signature line, but there’s another program with an even closer connection. That would be Akron, which is led by head coach Keith Dambrot, and all he did was serve as LeBron’s high school coach at St. Vincent/St. Mary’s HS in Akron during the player’s freshman and sophomore years at the school. Also on those teams were two future Akron Zips in guard Dru Joyce and forward Romeo Travis.
Thursday the school announced that it would be honoring James, Joyce and Travis with bobble head dolls to be given out before Akron’s home games against Buffalo (February 16; Joyce’s bobble head), Bowling Green (February 26; Travis) and Ohio (March 1; James).
All three bobble head dolls are wearing Akron uniforms, which in the case of LeBron allows fans to think back and imagine what could have been. Season ticket holders guaranteed one bobble head per account (on each of the three giveaway days), with the first 750 fans in attendance to receive one as well.
The gang is back together again for another episode of the NBCSports.com College Basketball Talk Podcast, with Rob Dauster hosting and Raphielle Johnson and Scott Phillips joining him. Today’s episode touched on big wins picked up Thursday night by California and Indiana, discussing the performances of those teams and also touching on their prospects down the line.
Also discussed were the recent performances of Iowa State, Providence and Texas A&M (which are you more worried about?), and some of the top games on this weekend’s schedule headlined by Kansas visiting Oklahoma. And if you’re a fan of seafood, you may take umbrage with some of Rob’s comments at the beginning of the podcast.
As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.