HOUSTON — Jarrett Allen and James Banks may ultimately help Texas win Big 12 or NCAA championships. But for the moment, they’re putting country first.
Team USA officials announced late Tuesday that both UT freshmen made the final cut for the 12-man team headed to Valdivia, Chile, to compete in the FIBA Americas Under-18 championships.
Allen and Banks, two big men measuring at least 6 feet, 10 inches tall, will finish out the week practicing at Houston Strake Jesuit with their new teammates. Then, the squad is off to Chile. The summer school session back in Austin will have to wait.
— USA Basketball (@usabasketball) July 13, 2016
— James Banks (@1jamesbanks) July 13, 2016
The tournament, which features eight teams from North, South, Central America and the Caribbean, is scheduled for July 19-23. The top four teams advance to the 2017 FIBA U19 world championships.
Team USA’s first game is scheduled against Puerto Rico at 12:30 p.m. on July 19.
Both players spent Monday and Tuesday practicing against some of the most sought-after recruits in the nation. Multiple players in the 2017 recruiting class are projected as one-and-done prospects. New York’s Mohamed Bamba and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. are among the top-three recruits in the nation, according to 247sports composite index.
But Allen showed versatility in five-on-five drills, and Banks flashed extreme athleticism at times. Texas coach Shaka Smart may also be the U18 head coach, but his two freshmen held their own in front of various NBA scouts, reporters and other onlookers.
“They’re going to play a lot of basketball together,” Smart said after Monday’s practice. “So for them to play together in this setting will be really good. They’ve been together at Texas for a little over five weeks now. They’re getting to know each other fast.”
Just getting this far with Team USA, Allen said, “It’s something I always wanted to do.”
“When I was younger, I always talked about how I wasn’t going to be a certain events, because I was going to be at USA Basketball,” Allen said after Monday’s practice. “Just being here is amazing. I’ve achieved my goal.”
Team USA has dominated this event, posting a 48-2 record in the U18/Junior World Championship qualifiers. The United States has won the gold medal seven times, including in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Notable alumni from this team include Grant Hill (1990), Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh (2002) and Kyrie Irving (2010).
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