After over a decade of absence, two former Israeli League players successfully passed nine intense days of tryouts with the Senior USA Men's national team, making the final cut, as they represent their nation in the Pan American games, currently taking place in Mexico.
Justin Dentmon who played for Hapoel Afula during the 2009-10 season, finishing as the league's leading scorer, and Leo Lyons who balled two seasons in the holy-land with Hapoel Jerusalem and Gilboa/Galil, are the first ever to collaborate on the senior USA NT in an official tournament after playing in Israel. In light of the ongoing NBA lockout, Team USA's formed mostly of overseas free agent pros and D-league players. The last time Team USA wasn't represented by NBAers (due to the lockout as well), was in 1998, disappointingly securing the bronze medal at the World Championship Games, where Wendell Alexis played on behalf of Israel's Maccabi Tel-Aviv who was the first to represent the senior USA NT in an official tournament after playing in Israel.
Now, after competing with twenty-one other hoopers, Lyons and Dentmon are two of the twelve finalists to clinch a spot on USA's roster. Last season, Dentmon played for the D-league's brand new team Texas Legends, leading the team to the playoff on route to winning the Gatorade All-D-League Honorable Mention award as one of the league's top guards, posting averages of 19.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game, shooting 43% from 3-point range. He had a season high in the D-league showcase of 38 pts,13 assists,7 boards and 4 steals in-front of the NBA GM'S. Playing for Afula, Dentmon finished as the league's number one scorer with 19.8 points per game, helping Afula win an epic playoff series against Ramat-Gan.
Dentmon's Texas Legends teammate Matt Rogers, failed to make the final USA roster, but commented on the achievement of last season's locker room buddy, :'Justin is a hard working smart player who sees the court well, Rogers said:'. Hes got a talent for scoring like nobody else Ive played with. He can shoot, drive past somebody or cross someone over and make them look funny.'
Dentmon himself expressed how it feels to become a member of the USA national squad saying,:' Ive been overseas a few times. Seeing the way people fight for their country is unbelievable. The chance I got to come out here and do the same for mine is a dream come true, I'm excited.'
The other Israeli/American member on board is Leo Lyons. After leaving Galil/Gilboa in mid-season last year, Lyons joined the NBDL's Austin Toros, having a great run on his way to posting a career high, 34-points, against Dentmon's Texas Legends. Prior to that, Lyons began his professional career also in Israel, but for Hapoel Jerusalem. He won the Israeli cup and led his team to the EuroCup challenge Elite8, averaging 14.9 points, 6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
Before taking to court in his new red-white-and-blue uniform, Lyons told Eurobasket exclusively,:''Personally, my time in Israel was somewhat of a disappointment. I never fell into the right spot and didnt enjoy the right situation. Overall, it was a great learning experience and I feel very good about it.' Lyons also commented on passing the tough USA tryouts, looking to officially start playing, 'We have a lot of pressure on us to win a gold medal because the reputation of Team USA is known for winning the gold award. The fact that the USA Men's basketball hasn't won a Pan American gold medal since 1983, is something us players remind ourselves of on a daily basis.
'The training we went through was crazy. We practiced twice a day, competing against a lot of people for nine straight days. It definitely was a challenge mentally and physically. Europe? It was a tough decision to decline offers I had overseas, but I have a good chance of making it to the NBA when the lockout ends, so I wanted to make myself available.'
'I love Israel; it's a second home to me. I talked to Justin about it earlier and I'd go back if it was the perfect opportunity. I have a lot of friends there and the league this year looks very competitive.'
The Pan American games are like the Olympic games of America the event is taking place once in four years and many USA Basketball athletes who have been selected to a Pan American Games team have gone on to compete in the Olympic Games, while many others enjoyed stellar professional careers. In all, 34 Pan Am athletes have been a member of a U.S. Olympic squad, including Ernie Grunfeld, Grant Hill, Luscious Jackson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Danny Manning, Chris Mullin, Emeka Okafor, Sam Perkins, Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Isiah Thomas, Jerry West and Jo Jo White.
The tournament this season will kick off October 26th, as Team USA will face Dominican Republic. Dentmon will also enjoy a piquant match against recent DR Cocolos teammate, Jack .M. Martinez. Another interesting match will take place when USA goes up against Puerto Rico, fully equipped with its dazzling back-court duo Carlos Arroyo (he also played in Israel and won the championship with Maccabi Tel Aviv) and J.J Barea (a fresh NBA champ).
Brazil celebrate the trophy in Toronto - 2 Years ago
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Canada - Brazil 71-86
Brazil rolled over hosting Canada to celebrate the title at the Panamerican Games in Toronto. Augusto Lima (207-C-91), Rafael Hettsheimer (206-C-86) and Larry Taylor (185-PG-80, college: Missouri Western) scored 13 points each to lead well-balanced effort from the Latin American powerhouse. Brazil did not waste time jumping to a comfortable 48:29 halftime lead. Canada stopped the rot in the third term. The hosts pulled within 13 points at the final interm... [read more]
Canada - Brazil 71-86 Brazil rolled over hosting Canada to celebrate the title at the Panamerican Games in Toronto. Augusto Lima (207-C-91), Rafael Hettsheimer (206-C-86) and Larry Taylor (185-PG-80, college: Missouri Western) scored 13 points each to lead well-balanced effort from the Latin American powerhouse. Brazil did not waste time jumping to a comfortable 48:29 halftime lead. Canada stopped the rot in the third term. The hosts pulled within 13 points at the final intermission. But Brazil sank 19 points in the fourth frame and eased to the victory. Anthony Bennett (203-F-93, college: UNLV) provided 18 points and 9 rebounds, while Jamal Murray (198-F/G-97) added 12 points in the loss.
USA - Dominican Republic 87-82 The USA stepped onto the pedestal in Toronto. They held off Dominican Republic to earn the Bronze medals. Brown Bobby (188-PG-84, college: CS Fullerton) came up with 19 points to lead the effort. Dominican Republic jumped to a 26:15 lead after ten minutes. They extended the margin at 13-point mark at the final intermission. The USA however picked up the tempo in the second half. They pulled within 9 points at the final break. The North American team went on a 28:14 rally in the fourth frame to escape with a tough victory. Damien Wilkins (198-G-80, college: Georgia) delivered 18 points, while Taurean Prince (201-F-94) added 12 points for the winners. James Maye (201-G/F-81, college: NC-Greensboro) responded with 16 points for Dominican Republic.
Canada and Brazil advance into title game in Toronto - 2 Years ago
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USA - Canada 108-111 OT
Canada survived overtime thriller versus their North American rivals USA to advance into the Panamerican Games Final. Andrew Nicholson (206-PF-89, college: St.Bonaventure) stepped up with 31 points and 10 rebounds to lead the winners. Canada piled up a 52:47 halftime lead. However the USA replied with a 33:22 run in the third term to spur ahead. Canada had to come back from behind in the fourth frame to force overtime. The hosts dropped 14 points i... [read more]
USA - Canada 108-111 OT Canada survived overtime thriller versus their North American rivals USA to advance into the Panamerican Games Final. Andrew Nicholson (206-PF-89, college: St.Bonaventure) stepped up with 31 points and 10 rebounds to lead the winners. Canada piled up a 52:47 halftime lead. However the USA replied with a 33:22 run in the third term to spur ahead. Canada had to come back from behind in the fourth frame to force overtime. The hosts dropped 14 points in the extra period and rallied to the victory. Jamal Murray (198-F/G-97) delivered 22 points, 6 assists and 4 rebounds for the winners. Brown Bobby (188-PG-84, college: CS Fullerton) responded with 25 points and 7 assists for the USA.
Brazil - Dominican Republic 68-62 Brazil held off Dominican Republic to seal their Final appearance. Vitor Benite (191-SG-90) topscored for Brazil with 18 points. Brazil accounted for a 35:29 halftime lead. Dominican Republic erased the deficit tying things up at 50 at the final break. Brazil however limited their opponents to just 12 points in the fourth quarter and iced the victory. Augusto Lima (207-C-91) accounted for 15 points and 11 rebounds in the win. James Maye (201-G/F-81, college: NC-Greensboro) responded with 15 points for Dominican Republic.
Puerto Rico - Argentina 85-105 Argentina clinched the fifth overall position at the Panamerican Games. They knocked down Puerto Rico in the final game at the tournament. Seven players scored in double digits for the winners. Facundo Campazzo (179-PG-91) stepped up with 17 points to pace the effort. Argentina recorded a 42:39 halftime lead. Argentina unleashed 63 points in the second half and marched to the victory. Federico Aguerre (203-F-88) and Juan Manuel Torres (210-C-84) delivered 13 points each for the winners. Jezreel De Jesus (185-G-91) responded with 12 points for Puerto Rico.
Venezuela - Mexico 83-59 Venezuela capped their Panamerican Games campaign on a winning note. They rallied past Mexico to finish in the seventh position. John Cox (194-G-81, college: USF) accounted for 24 points in the victory. Venezuela recorded a 16:6 lead after the opening quarter. They accounted for a 45:29 halftime lead. Venezuela kept Mexico at bay throughout the second half marching to the victory. Jhornan Zamora (196-G-89) netted 15 points in the win. Marco Ramos (198-F-87, college: Grand Canyon) and Jesus Gonzalez (195-F-86) answered with 11 points apiece for Mexico.
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