As Dave Johnson reported earlier Wednesday, John Wall will be one of several young players around the league named to the Team USA Select Team roster. Basically, this is the JV squad to the actual 2012 Olympic team. They'll practice and scrimmage against the real team, and everyone on the select squad will be in the pipeline to be considered for future spots on the varsity club.
This was something Wall pushed for since the end of the year, and now, he's got his spot. As a Wizards fan, this is a really good development.It's tempting to downplay the honor because it's not locking himself in a gym by himself, like he said he was going to do. It's also true that exposure to Team USA didn't help JaVale McGee much last summer. But McGee's experience is the exception to the rule. Most of the players that have been through the Team USA experience have grown tremendously as players because of it. They see how hard the stars work and realize what it takes to be great.
Take the 2010 World Championships team. Here's the roster:
- Kevin Durant
- Russell Westbrook
- Tyson Chandler
- Lamar Odom
- Danny Granger
- Kevin Love
- Chauncey Billups
- Rudy Gay
- Stephen Curry
- Eric Gordon
- Andre Iguodala
- Derrick Rose
Durant is Durant. Rose took his experience and raised his game to an MVP level. Westbrook and Love went from promising youngsters to top-10 players in the league. Gordon had his best year before getting hurt. Gay, Iguodala and Granger all became more cerebral players, learning how to fit their talents into a team setting. Chandler and Odom had major bounce-back years -- Odom won Sixth Man of the Year, while Chandler anchored the Mavericks' title run. Curry continued his rise that has only been stunted by ankle injuries. That's 11 of 12 guys taking something from their Team USA experience and using it to have breakout years.
In addition to this, many NBA observers have reported that the experience LeBron James had playing with Kobe Bryant on the 2008 Olympic team caused him to step up their work ethics and improve their games. Finally, five of the guys on the 2010 World Championships squad (Durant, Westbrook, Love, Igudoala and Rose) were on the Select Team in 2008. That's how the pipeline works.
Point being, the best way to learn what it takes to be a pro is through peer learning. The leaders of the pack set the tone, and all others follow. There's really no better way for Wall to learn how to be a pro than to be in a setting with that much institutional knowledge, whether he eventually plays in the Olympics or not.