Saturday, October 22, 2011

A tall order for Warley, U.S. Pan Ams team

Caught a bit of Friday's Team USA loss to Argentina at the Pan Am Games, and it struck me just how much the deck is stacked against this U.S. squad.

Think about it. Exactly one week ago, these players - Liberty's Avery Warley and Hofstra's Shante Evans among them - were meeting each other, and their coaches, for the first time. After three days of practice, they left for Mexico. Two practice days later, they were playing games that count.

So let's see. Different coaches, different teammates, different country, different (international) rules, different ball.... Quite a bit to process in less than a week.

Of course, all Argentina saw was the "USA" on the front of the uniform. The United States is No. 1 in FIBA's world rankings, and deservedly so - when led by the Taurasis, Parkers and Catchings of the world. Now, Warley, Evans and their Pan Am teammates are all terrific college players that are thrilled to be representing their country. It's great that these "hidden jewels" are getting this experience. But let's face it, these guys ain't those guys.

That didn't matter to the Argentinians, who celebrated their 58-55 victory as though they'd just won the whole tournament. And why not? After all, they'd just beaten "the best team in the world."

This doesn't mean America's Pan Am Games team still can't succeed. While they're obviously still having to adjust on the fly - and time is running out - this group figures to get better as the tournament goes on. Even a U.S. team such as this one, without the usual All-Americans and WNBA all-stars, is extremely talent-rich by the rest of the world's standards. And most of the other world powers - Australia, Spain, Russia, the Czech Republic - aren't in this tournament.

So we'll not ruling anything out. We just hope people realize, under the circumstances, what a huge ask it is to expect too much from a group of players that, as recently as a few weeks ago, never even dreamed they'd be in this position.

Team USA will resume action Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against Puerto Rico.

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