Haverford, Pa. - Michigan State senior guard Drew Neitzel was one of 14 players to be named a finalist for the 2007 USA Basketball Pan American Games men's basketball team on Sunday morning. The player selections, which were made after USA Basketball conducted five trials sessions between July 12-14 at Haverford College (Pa.), were made by the USA Basketball Men's Collegiate Committee, chaired by Syracuse University (N.Y.) head coach Jim Boeheim.
"This is a great feeling," said Neitzel after the 14 finalists were announced. "I didn't know what to expect. I've never really been in a situation where I faced a tryout and a cut. I kind of had some butterflies in my stomach, but it was a great feeling when I heard my name called."
In addition to Neitzel, players selected for the 2007 USA Pan American Games Team roster were: Josh Carter (Texas A&M / Dallas, Texas); Joey Dorsey (Memphis / Baltimore, Md.); Wayne Ellington (North Carolina / Wynnewood, Pa.); Shan Foster (Vanderbilt / Kenner, La.); James Gist (Maryland / Silver Spring, Md.); Roy Hibbert (Georgetown / Adelphi, Md.); Maarty Leunen (Oregon / Redmond, Ore.); Derrick Low (Washington State / Honolulu, Hawaii); Eric Maynor (Virginia Commonwealth / Fayetteville, N.C.); Scottie Reynolds (Villanova / Herndon, Va.); Bryce Taylor (Oregon / Encino, Calif.); Kyle Weaver (Washington State / Beloit, Wis.); D.J. White (Indiana / Tuscaloosa, Ala.).
"The trials were as competitive as any we have ever had. With the group of 14 finalists there is really good balance. We've got good inside guys, we've got good wing players and the point guards have really come on," said Boeheim. "I don't know that we have a superstar type player, but we've got really good balance and the players worked very hard and they look like they'll be good teammates, guys who will play well together which is tremendously important."
"This was definitely the most difficult choice we've ever had to make, but I just love this group. I think we have great options. We've got shooters, we've got penetrators, we've got size, we've got post people - a guy like Hibbert could be a game changer," stated USA and Villanova University head coach Jay Wright. "It's just a really diverse group that has great personality and I think the committee did a great job of putting together a really strong team. Our staff is excited about working with this team and getting them to come together and think like a team."
Wright is being assisted on the USA bench by University of Alabama head mentor Mark Gottfried and Yale University head coach James Jones.
Ellington (2006 Nike Hoop Summit, 2005 Youth Development Festival Blue Team); Leunen (2003 Youth Development Festival West Team); Reynolds (2005 Youth Development Festival White Team); Taylor (2003 Youth Development Festival West Team); and White (2004 Nike Hoop Summit and 2003 Youth Development Festival South Team) all possess previous USA Basketball experience.
Honors also are plentiful for the USA finalists. Collegeinsider.com named Maynor to its Mid-Major All-America Team, selected Hibbert for its Defensive All-America Team, and named Reynolds to its Freshmen All-America Team. Also, Reynolds collected Big East Rookie of the Year honors, while Dorsey earned Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year recognition from their respective conferences.
Named to their respective 2006-07 all-conference teams were: Dorsey (All-Conference USA first team); Hibbert (All-Big East first team); Low (All-Pacific-10 first team); Maynor (All-Colonial Athletic Association first team); Neitzel (All-Big Ten first team); Weaver (All-Pacific-10 first team); White (All-Big Ten second team); Carter (All-Big 12 honorable mention); Foster (All-Southeastern honorable mention); Leunen (All-Pacific-10 honorable mention); and Reynolds (All-Big East honorable mention).
The roster of finalists features 10 players who will be seniors in 2007-08, two who will be juniors and two who will be sophomores in 2007-08.
USA Pan American Games Team training will continue July 13-18 at Haverford College (Pa.), and July 19-21 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.
The official 12-member USA Pan American Games squad will compete July 25-29 in the 2007 Pan American Games men's basketball competition. The United States has been placed in preliminary round Group A along with Argentina, Panama and Uruguay, and Group B consists of Brazil, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. opens preliminary play July 25 facing Uruguay (10 p.m. Rio de Janeiro local time), then meets Panama on July 26 (7:45 p.m. Rio de Janeiro local time) and the U.S. closes out preliminary round action against Argentina on July 27 (7:45 p.m. Rio de Janeiro local time). Semifinals will be held on July 28 and the finals will be played July 29.