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Carlos Boozer Jr. of Juneau moved one step closer to a spot on the United States junior national team this weekend, surviving the first cut for the 2000 USA Basketball World Championship for Young Men Qualifying Team.
Boozer, who just finished his freshman year at Duke University, was named one of the 16 finalists after tryouts Friday through Sunday in Colorado Springs, Colo. Originally 30 athletes were invited to try out for the team, but only 26 made the trip. The team, for players age 20 and younger, meets for training camp July 10-17 in Miami, Fla., when the final cut will be made to 12 players.
If Boozer survives the final cut, he will travel to Riberao Preto, Brazil, near Sao Paulo, for the COPABA (Confederation of Pan American Basketball Associations) World Championships for Young Men Qualifying Tournament on July 19-23. The U.S. team will be one of eight squads from the Americas competing for three berths in the 2001 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Championships for Young Men tournament in Japan. The tournament is held every four years.
``It's a big honor,'' Boozer said in a phone interview on Saturday, before the cuts had been announced. ``Not that many players get the chance to represent the United States overseas in a big event. All 26 guys here have a chance to do that. There's a lot of competition, there's a lot of good players here. No matter who they pick it's going to be a great team going over to Brazil. It's a great honor to be here and we're all trying to do the best we can to make the team.''
Boozer, a 6-foot-9, 260-pound center-forward, will be joined on the team by two of his Duke teammates -- 6-2 point guard Jason Williams and 6-7 swingman Mike Dunleavy Jr.
Other finalists include Nick Collison and Drew Gooden of Kansas, Steve Logan and Kenny Satterfield of Cincinnati, Steve Blake of Maryland, Brian Cook of Illinois, Joe Johnson of Arkansas, Tayshaun Prince of Kentucky, Jason Richardson of Michigan State and Bobby Simmons of DePaul. Also making the finalist list were junior college player Johnnie Selvie, who will attend Connecticut next season, and high school stars Zach Randolph and Marcus Taylor, who will both attend Michigan State. The team will be coached by Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.
``I wasn't nervous when they were calling off the names,'' Boozer said. ``I'm just glad to be a part of it. I was really pleased and honored to be among the finalists. I'm going to work out, run and stay conditioned so that I'll be ready for training camp.''
``We've got great depth in these 16 guys,'' Boeheim said in a release. ``It was hard for the committee (chaired by University of Virginia athletic director Terry Holland) to make the cut because there were more than 16 good players out here. But we've got 16 good guys coming to training camp and although we don't really have any true low posts or centers, we've got a lot of guys who are flexible and who can do a lot of things. I think that's going to make for a good team and I think our chances for a gold medal should be very good.''
As a freshman at Duke, Boozer played center and power forward as the Blue Devils finished the regular season as the top-ranked team in the NCAA Division I polls. Boozer, who graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 1999, averaged 13.0 points and a teamhigh 6.3 rebounds a game for Duke. He also led the Blue Devils with a .614 field goal percentage. Boozer earned first team Atlantic Coast Conference all-freshman team honors and was honorable mention all-ACC.
``It's amazing how far basketball has taken me, and where it could take me if God's willing,'' Boozer said. ``I don't think athletics is the most important job in the world, but they get paid more than doctors do and doctors have to deal with people's lives every day. We get blessed with a big financial boost if we go to the next level, and on top of that we get a lot of exposure. We get a lot of things that benefit us just from playing the game. Basketball is a wonderful game that can benefit a lot of people who truly love it and truly work hard at it, and they're good enough.''
If Boozer makes the team he will be the second Alaskan to represent the United States in men's international basketball competition. Former East Anchorage High School and Duke guard Trajan Langdon, currently a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, played in the same tournament in 1994. Another former Alaskan, Andrea Lloyd of Sitka, played for the U.S. women's team in the 1988 Olympics, winning a gold medal, and was an alternate for the 1992 Olympics.
Jessica Moore, who is finishing her senior season at Colony High School in Palmer, received a similar invitation to try out in June for a USA Basketball young women's basketball team for players under age 18. Moore will be a freshman at NCAA Division I national champion Connecticut this fall.
Boozer, who has been attending summer school at Duke, was fighting a case of the stomach flu and missed the first practice session on Friday. Then he said he struggled with the 7,000-foot altitude in Saturday's early session before finally losing his sluggish feeling in Saturday's second session. He said it helped having his college teammates in the tryout camp (Williams is Boozer's roommate), even though he said he already knew most of the 26 players who tried out for the team. Boozer said the Duke coaches gave the three Blue Devils some pointers before they went to Colorado Springs for the tryouts.
``They told us when we came out here not to pace ourselves, to work hard every session and do the stuff that we did with them all year,'' Boozer said. ``Just do what we can do is the advice they gave us.''
Boozer said he hopes to return to Juneau for a brief stay in August, hopefully after playing in Brazil, then he'll return to Duke for the fall semester.