Jay Wright has a long and successful relationship with USA Basketball. Even back when he was just an assistant for the practice squads, he grew his relationships within the organization and proved he understood what was needed to be a part of Team USA.
This summer, Wright and the Villanova Wildcats are reaping the rewards of those early efforts.
Before the summer even began, Wright was named as the lone college level coach for Greg Popovich’s National Team staff that would participate in the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cupand the 2020 Olympics. Soon after, it was announced the Kyle Lowry would be joining his former coach on the team after playing on the 2016 Gold Medal team in Brazil.
Earlier this summer, three members of Wright’s incoming freshman class were selected to try out for the Team USA Under 19 squad. Eric Dixon, Justin Moore, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl all traveled out to the USA Basketball facilities in Colorado for a week of practices, and Robinson-Earl was selected as the only incoming college freshman to make the team. He helped lead the U19 team to a gold medal in Greece earlier this month.
Of course the leaders of the current Wildcats weren’t going to miss out on an opportunity to represent their country either. So when asked earlier this summer if they would represent Team USA on a Big East All-Star team at the Pan-Am Games in Peru, Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels were both on board. The two started for Team USA in last night’s final exhibition game before the team flies to Lima for next week’s games.
And just today, we have two new Wildcats joining the USA Select team that will help Jay Wright and Kyle Lowry train for August’s FIBA World Cup. Congrats to Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson!
Brunson is already very familiar with USA Basketball. In 2014 he was a member of the Under 18 team, and then helped lead the 2015 Under 19 team to gold (also in Greece). That year Brunson earned the tournament’s MVP, and would later be named USA Basketball’s Male Athlete of the Year.
It’s no fluke that so many Villanova players are getting involved with USA Basketball. Not only does Jay seem to have at least a little bit of pull, but former Villanova player BJ Johnson spent years working for USA Basketball and helped build long lasting bonds between the organization and Villanova University. Johnson now works in player development for the Brooklyn Nets.
All of this is great for Villanova Basketball. It gives players the opportunity to have once in a lifetime experiences, play with the best of the best, and start relationships with some of the most connected basketball people in the country. Oh, and you get to represent the United States of America on a world stage. It doesn’t get much better than that!
Best of luck to all the Villanova players and coaches involved in USA Basketball this summer, we’ll be pulling for you!