Virginia sophomore Mike Tobey earned a spot on the USA Basketball U19 World Championship Team after tryouts in Colorado. The 12-member squad will compete for a gold medal at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship, which is scheduled for June 24-July 6 in Prague, Czech Republic.
Cavalier coach Tony Bennett said that the experience should be beneficial for Tobey.
“It’s hard to say how much he’ll play on this team. You don’t know in these settings,” Bennett said. “These players he’s going against in practice, the strength, the athleticism, and just the amount talent around the team, it’s so good, it’s so competitive and you can’t always get that. Certainly your summer workouts are intense. You play pick-up ball, but this is a little better. I think it’s good for Mike. He probably won’t be in the weight room quite as much, but I think whenever you make a team like this and compete against these players in practice and compete internationally, from my experience as player, I think it is a positive.”
Some of the other names on the team include Montrezl Harrell (Louisville), Jahlil Okafor (Whitney Young H.S.), and Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee), three formidable post players that Tobey will see in practices. While Tobey is the tallest player on the roster, he’ll see different styles and different skill sets from the trio of other post options. Bennett noted that Okafor, ranked as the top recruit in the class of 2014 by ESPN, is a powerful player with approximately a 7’6″ wing span. He lists Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, and Ohio State as his top 8 schools.
Taking on players of that caliber should help Tobey continue to improve. Up to around 245 pounds according to Bennett, Tobey has tackled offseason work and it showed up in flashes at the USA tryouts.
“He’s worked very hard to improve his game. He was solid in the tryouts. … No one just dominates in these things, but you look for flashes and there were a few flashes where Mike showed his touch, his passing. … Hopefully he can show some more good stuff in the practices and when he gets opportunities out there,” Bennett said.
If you don’t stay focused, however, those flashes can quickly be replaced by forgettable moments.
“If you’re not locked in or ready, you’ll get embarrassed out there pretty quick. … Having to play at that intense, high quality of a level is very good for a player like Mike,” Bennett said.
Tobey isn’t the only one gaining valuable experience from USA Basketball. Bennett is an assistant coach for Billy Donovan and the team along with VCU’s Shaka Smart, whose climb through the coaching ranks included a stop with Donovan at Florida. Both of those coaches prefer an up-tempo style with fullcourt pressure as a key defensive element. Bennett utilizes the gap defense known as the Pack Line and that often leads to more halfcourt grinder games.
Bennett sees the chance to work with Donovan as a great opportunity.
“That’s what’s so good for me to be here. I’m so thankful. When you talk about Coach Donovan, he’s been to the last three Elite Eights, two National Championships, a Final Four. … What he’s done as a coach, he’s clearly one of the greatest coaches,” Bennett said. “To learn from him, they run a certain style. Obviously with our athleticism [on Team USA], we’re trying to do some things. … It’s great for me to learn and see different ways. That’s all a part of this and it’s so good for coaches to be a part of USA Basketball.”