With the 2012 London Olympics soon upon us and people get excited about watching the USA baseketball team with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, if you take a closer look at the players that represent the nations in the Games in basketball, you will find that of the Olympic basketball players among the 12 nations that will compete, US college basketball is a common thread.
Some might say that college basketball in the United States is the training ground for world basketball.
The proof? Of the 144 players, 46 played college basketball and 40 "spent extensive developmental time in US Division 1 schools." That includes Nigeria, whose team is comprised of almost all players who were in college basketball (including ASU standout Ike Diogu).
Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek, who coached two Olympians -- USA's James Harden and Great Britain's Eric Boeteng -- explains why the college game is producing so many of the world's basketball Olympians.
"Development probably is the No. 1 thing that prospects look for in evaluating a school. Guys typically want to go where they have a chance to play and get better.
"It's an important piece in the recruiting puzzle, and in terms of performance it's incredibly important. With few exceptions, when you make the transition from high school to college, you're not good enough. You've got to keep getting better."
The best players leave quickly, but those are the very best. They don't need the development. they can move on. Th rest? They improve.
James Harden was a little soft-bodied and couldn't use his right hand much. After time at ASU, "he compiled the best composite score in physical testing of any wing player at the NBA Scouting Combine."
Russell Westbrook was no one special coming into college. He was not a highly touted recruit. He became a UCLA star his sophomore year and is now one of the NBA's best point guards.
The time period in which USA basketball seemed to get worse wasn't so much about the talent at the NBA being bad. Yes, it was hard to get the NBA's brightest stars to participate and they did not play cohesively. But more of the decrease in the talent gap could be because more players from around the world are playing basketball in the US in its universities. They are developing talent for the rest of the world and the game is benefiting, even if it makes things a little tougher for the US team.
Sure, college basketball could use a few more of its stars staying in school longer. But it is doing its job in development.
The proof is in the pudding. Roughly a third of all basketball Olympians player college ball in the US.
That's not a bad feather to have it your cap.