Carlos Boozer Jr. is one of 16 of the country's top basketball players in Miami this week trying to be among the 12 who will represent the U.S. junior national team in a major tournament in Brazil.
Boozer, a 1999 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School and the current starting center-forward at Duke University, is the only Alaskan at the training camp, which opened Tuesday night and concludes on Sunday.
If Boozer survives the final cut later this week, he will represent Team USA at the COPABA (Confederation of Pan American Basketball Associations) World Championship for Young Men Qualifying Tournament in Ribeirao Preto, Brazil, July 19-23. In late May, Boozer was one of 26 players, all born after Jan. 1, 1980, to go through the first round of cuts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
``It's a big honor,'' Boozer said in a phone interview during the first training camp (portions of this taped interview can be heard in the BearZone on juneaualaska.com). ``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, whose family is moving to the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina in late July, is one of three players from Duke among the finalists at this week's camp at Miami's LaSalle High School. Besides Boozer, a 6-foot-9, 250pound center-power forward, Duke is represented by 6-2 point guard Jason Williams and 6-7 swingman Mike Dunleavy Jr. All three Blue Devils will be sophomores this fall.
The other finalists are 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. Additional finalists included junior college player Johnnie Selvie, who will attend Connecticut this fall, and high school players Zach Randolph and Marcus Taylor, who will both attend Michigan State. The team will be coached by Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim.
The 12 players who make the final cut will leave Miami for Brazil on July 16, and the team will open pool-play on July 19 against Uruguay. Team USA will play Panama on July 20 and Argentina on July 21, with the semifinals on July 22 and the championship game on July 23. The other teams in the tournament are Brazil, Canada, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The top three teams from the tournament will advance to the 2001 FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Championships for Young Men in Japan.
``It's amazing how far basketball has taken me, and where it could take me if God's willing,'' Boozer said in May. ``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 the game. Basketball is a wonderful game that can benefit a lot of people who truly love it and truly work hard at it, if 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. Current Cleveland Cavalier Trajan Langdon, who played for both East Anchorage High School and Duke, played in the same tournament in 1994.
Another former Alaskan, Andrea Lloyd of Sitka, won a gold medal with the U.S. women's basketball team in the 1988 Olympics and she was an alternate in the 1992 Olympics. Jessica Moore, a recent Colony High School graduate who will attend Connecticut this fall, went to a similar junior national basketball team tryout in June, but didn't survive the cut.