Pistons center Andre Drummond survived the first cut for U.S. team. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / Detroit News)
Pistons center Andre Drummond is perhaps one of the biggest faces of USA basketball’s future, and he made the initial cut before September’s World Cup in Spain.
But whether he’ll make the final cut appears to be slightly murky at this stage, as USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski made numerous references to his youth in a conference call with reporters, one week before another exhibition in Chicago.
“Andre is a willing worker. He’s a big guy who runs well and is still learning about the game,” Krzyzewski said.
“He doesn’t turn 21 until next month (actually Sunday). He’s been in our program for a couple years and he’s continuing to grow. This type of competition, if he makes the team, only helps him going forward.”
Ahead of Drummond on the depth chart for center, it appears, are DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento) and possibly Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn), who played for Krzyzewski at Duke.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis will start at center for international competition, and Krzyzewski said he and USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo evaluate the center position differently than the guard and forward spots, which are considered interchangeable.
“We’re looking at the 5 position separate from all the others,” Krzyzewski said.
Cousins is possibly the league’s best center from an offensive standpoint, while Plumlee appears to be more apt defensively.
“He’s still learning about defensive coverages,” Krzyzewski said of Drummond. “He’s still improving. He did well and is in full consideration for a spot going forward.”
Washington guards John Wall and Bradley Beal were cut Tuesday, along with late addition Paul Millsap. Drummond is in the field of 16 that must be cut to 12 before World Cup play begins.
“Whether he’s on the team right now, we want him on USA Basketball going forward because he’s an up-and-comer,” Krzyzewski said.
He was far more complimentary with Cousins, who didn’t have the best reputation with USA Basketball because of past behavior, and Plumlee, who he said learned from Kevin Garnett about being more vocal on defense this past season.
Everyone is on high alert about the future of USA Basketball, but also its present, with the devastating injury that put Pacers forward Paul George and his stout defense on the shelf.
There could be hope for Drummond, though, if a matchup with host Spain is considered. Spain’s skilled and big frontcourt of brothers Marc and Pau Gasol will pose problems for virtually everyone,
“We haven’t determined how many (bigs),” said Krzyzewski before referring to Davis. “We think he’s a different (center) in how he runs and shoots from the outside. We need more than Anthony (Davis), not just against Spain. All the big guys will be looked at closely and we haven’t determined how many we’ll carry.”
As Drummond’s game develops, so will his standing within USA Basketball. And it’s obvious they view him as a valuable piece of its future, but he still has a chance to make an impression before final cuts — as the camp moves on to Chicago and New York.
“We haven’t set a specific date” for finalizing the roster, Krzyzewski said. “What we want to zero in on is a core group we can settle on. We can see that. Hopefully we can decide that in Chicago or maybe New York.”