Carlos Boozer added to U.S. Olympic Team

JDHS grad accepts invitation; official announcement to be made later this week

Posted: Tuesday, June 08, 2004

At just 22 years old, Carlos Boozer already has a pretty full basketball resume.

Boozer, a 1999 Juneau-Douglas High School graduate, helped the Crimson Bears win two state titles. At Duke, Boozer helped the Blue Devils claim the 2001 NCAA championship. For the past two years, Boozer has become an emerging NBA star with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now it appears Boozer can add another line to the resume - Olympian.

An NBA source who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press on Monday that Boozer has been added to the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team and has accepted the invitation to play in Athens this summer. An official announcement is expected later this week, another source told the Associated Press.

"He called me last Thursday and he told me," said Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball coach George Houston, who coached Boozer when he played for the Crimson Bears. "He's pretty pumped. It's an honor."

"I can't comment on it yet," Boozer told the Akron Beacon Journal on Monday. "I have to wait for USA Basketball to make it official."

Boozer, who couldn't be reached by the Juneau Empire on Monday, just completed his second year in the NBA. He finished second in the voting for the league's Most Improved Player Award this season.

As a rookie, Boozer averaged 10.0 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, even though he didn't start until midway through the season. This past year, Boozer averaged 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds for the vastly improved Cavaliers, who went 35-47 and narrowly missed a spot in the playoffs one year after going 17-65. Boozer also had 41 double-doubles and finished among the NBA's leaders in field-goal percentage.

Boozer will join his Cleveland teammate LeBron James on the ever-changing U.S. roster for the Olympics. James also was a late addition to the team, which already has lost several superstars for personal reasons. The Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns are the only NBA teams with two players on the current Olympic team roster.

"Carlos called me to share the good news, and I was very happy for him," James said in a written statement to the Beacon Journal. "I'm happy to have my teammate with me in Athens."

Security issues in Athens prompted several NBA stars to decline invitations to play on the U.S. Olympic Team, while other players decided not to go to Athens because they are fighting injuries or getting married.

Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Elton Brand, Kenyon Martin and Tracy McGrady already have withdrawn from the team or have said they would not accept invitations to play. Mike Bibby and Jermaine O'Neal also are expected to bow out.

"We talked about it (the security issues in Athens) and he said 'If they call my name, I'm going.' He's confident they'll have a secure environment," Houston said.

The U.S. Olympic Team is scheduled to be housed on one of several luxury cruiseships docked near Athens. Houston said the ships will be protected by SEAL teams and other military units.

U.S. coach Larry Brown, a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic team and the coach of the Detroit Pistons, said he understands players have other commitments.

"I just look at it as maybe a missed opportunity for the guys that are dropping out, but an unbelievable chance for the guys that want to play," Brown told the AP from the NBA Finals in Los Angeles. "The more young kids with enthusiasm that are going to be our future, in my mind, the better off we can be."

Besides James and Boozer, the current roster includes Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson, Richard Jefferson, Shawn Marion, Ben Wallace, Amare Stoudemire and Tim Duncan.

Only Duncan and Marion have significant international experience, although Boozer played on the USA Basketball Team for Young Men that won a gold medal in Japan when Boozer was attending Duke University. Boozer also won a gold ulu playing for Team Alaska in the 1996 Arctic Winter Games when he was a freshman in high school.

Brown would like to add some veterans such as Reggie Miller to the squad - and perhaps a few more kids. Denver's Carmelo Anthony and Miami's Dwyane Wade are two of the players most often mentioned, the Associated Press reported, while the Beacon Journal added the name of Michael Redd to the list of prospects to fill out the 12-player roster.

"Look at the bigs (centers and power forwards). They have Ben Wallace, Amare Stoudemire, Tim Duncan and 'Los (Boozer)," Houston said. "They only have four bigs, so there's an opportunity for some minutes there. I wasn't planning on watching the Olympics, but now I plan on watching the basketball."

Many of the more-established NBA stars didn't want to play in the Olympics because the team has a lengthy tour of Europe and Turkey before it reaches Athens.

The team has a training camp in Jacksonville, Fla., on July 26-31, with an exhibition game against Puerto Rico on July 31. The team heads to Cologne, Germany, for more training on Aug. 1-4, with games against Italy and Germany. Then it heads to Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro, on Aug. 5-6, where it plays Serbia and Montenegro. The team concludes its pre-Olympics training schedule in Istanbul, Turkey, on Aug. 7-12, where it will play Turkey.

The team arrives in Athens, Greece, on Aug. 13 and the Olympics take place Aug. 15-28.

Boozer, who was in Juneau filming a commercial on May 20, was scheduled to return to town in July. But Houston said that trip probably won't take place now because of the Olympics.

"It's just a greater opportunity for him. It's just phenomenal," Houston said of Boozer, who has been in Cleveland training 6-8 hours a day for the upcoming NBA season. "'Los probably best summed it up when he said, 'Coach, I'm so blessed.' He's very appreciative of the opportunity and the honor."

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