Team USA rounds out hoops squad

COLORADO SPRINGS, May 29 (UPI) -- USA Basketball has announced that Richard Jefferson, Elton Brand, and Nick Collison have been added to the Olympic team, completing the 12-man roster.

Jefferson is a forward with the New Jersey Nets, who are about to compete for the NBA title for the second time in as many seasons.


"This is my proudest moment as a basketball player," said Jefferson.

Representing his country should be a better experience for Brand this time. The star forward of the Los Angeles Clippers was a member of the U.S. team that sullied the country's reputation with a sixth-place finish in the World Basketball Championships at Puerto Rico last summer.

"I personally have extra motivation to play well, considering I was part of the World Championship team last year that lost, and since I was injured for part of the tournament," Brand said.


That team was missing players like two-time reigning NBA MVP Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Tracy McGrady, all of whom will participate this time for Team USA.

Duncan, McGrady, Jason Kidd, and Ray Allen were the first four players selected, and Karl Malone and Mike Bibby were the second additions to the U.S. team, which must qualify for the 2004 Olympics by finishing among the top three in the Tournament of the Americas in August.

The selections of Bryant, Iverson, and Jermaine O'Neal last month completed the nine "core group" players on the team. Jefferson, Brand, and Collison were chosen as "role" players by the USA Basketball Senior National Team Committee.

Larry Brown, who resigned as coach of the Philadelphia 76ers earlier this week, was named as Team USA Coach in November.

"It's neat having three young players who are good kids who can contribute to our team," Brown said. "Elton and Richard are two of the league's finest young players, and it's wonderful to reward Nick for staying in college four years and being so active with USA Basketball."


In his four years at Kansas, Collison led the Jayhawks to a 113-29 record, back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2001 and '02, and two Big 12 regular season titles. He compiled 2,097 points to rank second on the Jayhawks' all-time scoring list, and is the school's third-leading rebounder (1,143).

"It is a great honor for me as a college kid to have the chance to play and practice with many of the best players in the NBA," Collison said. "It's a great opportunity, and I'm excited to be able to represent the United States."

Collison was an alternate and the only college player involved with the 2002 world championship team.

The backcourt will be stacked with Kidd and Bibby at point guard, and Bryant, Iverson, and Allen as shooting guards. The 6-9 McGrady likely will be a small forward.

The 6-7 Jefferson will back up at small forward. He averaged 15.5 points and 6.4 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field for the Nets this season.

Malone will be at power forward, with Duncan and O'Neal likely rotating between center and power forward. The 6-8 Brand will back up at power forward, and the 6-9 Collison will serve as a reserve center.


Brand finished the 2002-03 season first in the league in offensive rebounds with 4.6 per game, and fourth in blocked shots with 2.55 per game. He had 44 double-doubles despite missing 20 games because of injuries, and averaged 18.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest.

"Elton provides us with an offensive low post scorer and a solid defensive presence in the frontcourt," said National Team Committee Chairman Stu Jackson. "The committee's selections completes the roster for one of the most talented and exciting teams USA Basketball has ever assembled."

Team USA will participate in the 2003 Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will be held Aug. 20-31 in Puerto Rico.

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