Team USA once again convened last week in Colorado Springs, Colorado for a USA Basketball mini-camp. Led by Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski, USA Basketball hosted the mini-camp for 27 NBA players with hopes of donning the red, white and blue for the 2014 Basketball World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Some of the biggest names at the camp included the past three draft’s number one picks, like Anthony Davis, and all five members of the 2012-2013 NBA All Rookie team. There were two former Tar Heels in attendance in Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller. Both played well in the mini-camp and made their case for an invite onto the World Cup and Olympic Rosters.
Harrison Barnes had a very successful first season in the NBA, leading to the invite to the USA camp. He averaged over 16 points in the playoffs for the Golden State Warriors, and the former Tar Heel has a very bright future ahead of him. Barnes did not attend the NBA’s Summer League but accepted the invite to the Team USA mini-camp, where he played well. Barnes scored 18 points for the USA Blue Team in a losing effort, second most on the squad. He was helped by making both of his threes and going 4-4 from the charity stripe, and had a sick dunk over Ryan Anderson. If Barnes continues his strong play at events like these, and in the NBA with Golden State, he should make the Team USA roster for the World Cup and have an outside shot at the Olympic Roster. Whether or not he makes that team could be decided by LeBron James and his decision to suit up at the Olympics. LeBron did express some interest in one more Olympics with Coach K, but there still might be an opening at Small Forward for Barnes to fill. If members of the London group like Andre Iguodala, LeBron and Carmelo Anthony decide not to play for their country in 2016, Barnes could find himself filling their role and on the team.
Tyler Zeller is also coming off a promising rookie season in Cleveland, where he played well while filling in for injured Cav Anderson Varejao. Cleveland has two new bigs in draft pick Anthony Bennett and free agent Andrew Bynum, so he could be pressed for minutes in his second season. However, there is no doubt Zeller should stick in the league, and this was justified with the invitation to camp. Zeller didn’t play much in the Team USA scrimmage, scoring 8 points and pulling in five boards in just 13 minutes of action. He will have a hard time earning a World Cup roster spot with so many talented USA bigs like Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, and DeAndre Jordan. The Olympic squads generally take 2-4 big men; the 2012 unit took three true bigs in Tyson Chandler, Davis, and Kevin Love. With power foward and center being such a deep position, it won’t be a matter of talent for Zeller but one of space on the roster. As tough as it will be for Zeller to make those Olympic and World Cup teams, it is a great honor for him and justification of his solid play after his time at UNC.
It was a great summer overall for all the professional Tar Heels. John Henson, Reggie Bullock and others had breakout performances in the NBA’s Summer League, and now Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller both performed well at Team USA’s mini-camp. Hopefully one of those guys can be the first former Tar Heel to represent Team USA at an international competition since Antawn Jamison at the 2006 World Championships.