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June 14, 2007

Who should make the Pan-Am team?

The Talent Pool
The 30 players who accepted invitations to try out for the team that will represent the United States at the Pan-American Games July 13-29 in Rio de Janeiro:
Jon Brockman, Washington
Brian Butch, Wisconsin
Josh Carter, Texas A&M
Mario Chalmers, Kansas
Sherron Collins, Kansas
Brandon Costner, N.C. St.
Eric Devendorf, Syracuse
Joey Dorsey, Memphis
Wayne Ellington, UNC
Randal Falker, So. Ill.
Shan Foster, Vanderbilt
Alonzo Gee, Alabama
James Gist, Maryland
Richard Hendrix, Alabama
Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
Maarty Leunen, Oregon
Chris Lofton, Tennessee
Derrick Low, Wash. St.
Wesley Matthews, Marq.
Eric Maynor, VCU
Jerel McNeal, Marquette
Tasmin Mitchell, LSU
Drew Neitzel, Michigan St.
DeMarcus Nelson, Duke
Ahmad Nivins, St. Joe's
Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
Jon Scheyer, Duke
Bryce Taylor, Oregon
Kyle Weaver, Wash. St.
D.J. White, Indiana
International basketball competition long since has ceased being the exclusive domain of the United States.

Where once gold was a given, now it seems we barely expect to medal when we venture beyond our shores.

The U.S. team won gold at eight of the first nine Pan-Am Games, but it hasn't had the Midas touch there since 1983. In the most recent Pan-Am Games in 2003, the Americans didn't even medal.

Yes, the world has caught up to us. Yes, other teams in the upcoming Pan-Am Games in Brazil will be sending professional players against our collegians. But is a bronze too much to ask? Can't we hold out a sliver of hope for a silver?

It's fair to say this isn't even the best college team we can offer. Many of the top underclassmen are in the NBA Draft. A couple of top players (including North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough) turned down tryout invites for the Pan-Am team for one reason or another.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope. We appear to have a bevy of talented outside shooters, something U.S. teams of recent vintage have lacked. We also have some wide bodies who won't shy away if things get physical. So we'll see how it all comes together next month.

In the meantime, here's who Rivals.com experts Bob McClellan and Andrew Skwara choose for their teams out of the 30 invitees (listed alphabetically):

Rivals.com Experts' Pan-Am Teams
Team McClellan
Bob McClellan
Rivals.com College Basketball Editor

Jon Brockman: The Washington power forward is a space eater who works as hard on the boards as anyone. Witness the fact he led the Pac-10 in rebounding (9.6 per game), and it's a league absolutely loaded with talented big men.

Brandon Costner: The N.C. State forward was a revelation last season. He was the only redshirt to make a Rivals.com Freshman All-America team. He's too big for most small forwards, and he can take power forwards outside and knock down 3-pointers.

Wayne Ellington: The North Carolina guard had a modest first season (11.7 points, 2.1 assists), but in my opinion will serve notice in Brazil that he's ready for a monster sophomore year.

Shan Foster: The Vanderbilt standout is an above-average defender and a terrific long-range shooter. When his feet are set he has no problem from the international 3-point line and beyond.

Richard Hendrix: I want a team that won't back down. My power forwards (Hendrix, Brockman and D.J. White) are all 250-plus pounds, they hit the boards hard, and they do most of their scoring on the inside.

Roy Hibbert: The first bonus of returning to school is a trip to Brazil. The U.S. team not only will need his defensive presence and leadership, but the big fella also is a decent passer.

Chris Lofton: The way I figure it, Lofton is one of four locks to make the team along with Scottie Reynolds (he is an excellent player, and Villanova's Jay Wright is the U.S. team coach), Hibbert (you see any other 7-footers on the roster?) and an Alabama player (Mark Gottfried is one of Wright's assistants). The Tennessee marksman has big-time range, big-time heart and is a coach's dream.

Eric Maynor: There aren't a lot of options at point guard, and the VCU star can score, distribute and defend. He also brings some much-needed moxie (just ask Duke).

Jerel McNeal: The Marquette guard makes my team because he's a shutdown guy. McNeal was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. He's used to matching up with top wing scorers, the type international teams always seem to have in abundance.

Drew Neitzel: The skinny left-hander was the focal point of Big Ten defenses last season and still managed 18.1 ppg and shot 40 percent from 3-point range. He'll be a huge weapon on this team.

Scottie Reynolds: He flew under the radar in his freshman season until Big East play. That's when Reynolds served notice, averaging 18.4 points per game in conference, second only to Providence's Herbert Hill. Reynolds can play the point, and he'll create opportunities for himself at the free-throw line.

D.J. White: Indiana's leading scorer and rebounder provides needed size and muscle for the U.S. team. He's a blue-collar guy, a grinder. He won't do anything spectacular except get you 13 points and eight rebounds.

Team Skwara
Andrew Skwara
Rivals.com College Basketball Writer

Brandon Costner: Meet the matchup nightmare for American opponents. Just ask anyone who faced N.C. State last season. At 6-8, 230 pounds, this smooth-shooting left-hander with a deep arsenal of moves is extremely tough to guard.

Eric Devendorf: Every team needs a guy who can come off the bench and provide instant offense. This trigger-happy junior could excel in such a role. He scored 33 points despite being the No. 2 option for the Orange at Villanova last season.

James Gist: Doesn't have the gaudy statistics or the credentials of many other invitees, but Gist has a long reach, runs the court well and is very athletic. None of the other big men coming to camp can boast such a combination.

Richard Hendrix: This space eater (6-8, 265) can handle all the dirty work down low. Plus, with a reliable 15-foot jumper, he's more than just a bruiser on the inside.

Roy Hibbert: Most 7-footers would land a roster spot on size alone. Throw in Hibbert's passing skills and old-school post moves, and he's an absolute lock.

Chris Lofton: Go ahead and reserve a roster spot for Lofton, along with a starting job. The reigning SEC Player of the Year is clearly the best 3-point shooter in the college ranks. When Lofton is on, he can single-handedly win a game.

Eric Maynor: Probably won't play much, but will provide solid point guard depth. There is a glaring lack of reliable ballhandlers among the 30 invitees.

Jerel McNeal: Can play three or four different roles, including a defensive stopper. The versatile junior guards numerous positions and can conform to just about any style of play the Americans will face.

Drew Neitzel: Experience. Savvy. Toughness. Leadership. Neitzel would bring it all of those coveted attributes to the squad, including the ability to play point or off the ball.

Scottie Reynolds: A great fit for the international style of play. This rising star has a high basketball IQ and moves well without the ball. He averaged 24.1 ppg in his last eight games last season.

Kyle Weaver: This versatile wing will give head coach Jay Wright a number of options with which to work. Weaver has great court vision and he prefers to pass rather than shoot.

D.J. White: Outside of UNC's Tyler Hansbrough (who turned down an invite), there isn't a better interior scoring threat in college.

Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at bmcclellan@rivals.com. Andrew Skwara is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at askwara@rivals.com.



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