Booker, Cauley-Stein, Randle named to 2016 USA Select Team



Kevin Erpenbeck

The NBA Finals could be over in the next few days, depending on how much the Golden State Warriors want to embarrass the Cleveland Cavaliers by completing their four-game sweep over them.

After that, basketball fans will turn their attention to the 2016 Olympics to root on Team USA in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While the official USA team has not been finalized yet, the Select Team that they will be training with has been announced, and it has a few ex-Wildcats on it.

USA Basketball announced that Julius Randle (Los Angeles Lakers), Willie Cauley-Stein (Sacramento Kings) and Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns) are among the 25 top young players chosen for the 2016 USA Men’s Select Team. The players will train with the official USA Basketball Men’s National Team on July 18-21 during its training camp in Las Vegas.

“The 2016 USA Basketball Select Team continues to our tradition of featuring some of the game’s brightest and most promising young players,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball National Team managing director, in a press release. “Participation in this camp provides them with valuable experience at the USA Basketball National Team level, while helping prepare the 2016 USA National Team for its upcoming international competition. For many of the Select Team players this is a continuation of their USA Basketball experiences and for others it is an introduction into our pipeline.

“Being chosen for the Select Team is an honor and it is an important step in becoming involved in USA Basketball’s National Team program in the future. Current national team players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook, as well as many other outstanding players, got their USA National Team start through a Select Team.”

Randle is a second-year player in the NBA while Cauley-Stein and Booker are rookies.

Booker was named to the 2015-16 NBA All-Rookie First Team after he ranked fourth among rookies with a scoring average of 13.8 points in 76 games this year. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard was made a permanent starter for Phoenix in the final 44 games of the season after the team suffered numerous injuries to its roster, including to fellow ex-Cats Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight. Booker led all rookies by shooting 84.0 percent from the free throw line and recording six 30-plus point games. Booker, who is 19, also became the sixth teenager in NBA history to surpass 1,000 career points, joining LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard.

“I got the invite and it feels really good,” said Booker according to the Phoenix Suns’ website. “I’ve never participated in anything with USA Basketball before and now I’m getting the chance while I’m in the NBA, competing against the Olympic Team. It’s unbelievable, getting to represent USA and getting to wear those three letters across my chest. There’s nothing like that. Obviously, this is my country, born and raised here and I know the history that goes behind it with the Dream Team, so I definitely feel honored and blessed to be a part of it.”

Cauley-Stein, who was selected seven spots ahead of Booker during the 2015 NBA Draft, also had a terrific first year in the league and was named to the 2015-16 NBA All-Rookie Second Team. The 7-0 center averaged 7.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 21.4 minutes per game on the season while starting 39 games of the 66 he played in.

Randle completed his first full season in the NBA this year after suffering a broken leg in the first game of his rookie campaign. He was one of only nine players in the NBA to average a double-double for the season (11.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game) and only missed one game on the year. Randle recorded 34 double-double games and one triple-double game this season.

Fellow former UK players Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans), John Wall (Washington Wizards) and DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings) are also in the mix to make the official USA National team this year. However, Davis underwent a left knee procedure in late March and is expected to be sidelined from basketball activities for three to four months. The final roster will be announced later this summer.

The 2016 Olympics will begin on Aug. 5, and the first match for Team USA will be on Aug. 6 against China. The national team will be coached by Mike Krzyzewski and the Select Team will be coached by Gregg Popovich, who will take over coaching duties of the national team for the next Olympic games.