Gonzaga’s Bryant Crawford vies for spot on the U-16 national basketball team


Gonzaga guard Bryant Crawford, right, is vying for a spot to compete with the U.S. U-16 national team and represent his country at next week’s FIBA Americas U-16 championship. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

For the past two years, Bryant Crawford has had some of the best Division I basketball programs vie for his services, the likes of Georgetown, Indiana, Maryland and Texas all praising the Gonzaga guard’s game.

That did little to calm the rising junior’s nerves Sunday morning as he and 29 other top high school players anxiously sat in a room at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. While the group was heavy on hoops clout, they were short on space with just 16 finalist spots available for the penultimate round of cuts for the U-16 national team.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking,” Crawford said, “but if you played your game to the best of your ability, it will speak volumes and you don’t have to be too worried.”

That proved true for Crawford, who was named as one of the finalists following a three-day camp this past weekend. The group will be pared down to 12 on Monday night, forming the roster that will head to Uruguay on Friday for the 2013 FIBA Americas U-16 Championship on June 11-15 under the direction of Don Showalter.

Making the final roster would culminate a journey that began back in October for Crawford, two months before he had even played his first high school game. Through two minicamps, the pool of players has been whittled down, with Crawford showcasing skills that continue to bud following a solid sophomore campaign and intense offseason workouts.

“Before the camp even started, I had been training, conditioning and lifting and just preparing myself to come to camp,” said Crawford, who averaged 8.6 points last season. “I’ve been working on my mid-range pull-up, my three-point shot and my decision-making — not going for the home run play all the time and just keeping my passes simple.”

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound point guard also said he’s focused on elevating his defense and leadership ability, areas that are vital to succeeding in international play.

Competing against top competition in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference with Gonzaga and on the AAU circuit with Team Takeover helped prepare Crawford for this moment, and should he make Monday’s final cut, the ensuing experience could prove to accelerate the evolution of one of the area’s most regarded players.

“It would mean a lot for me,” Crawford said. “There’s a lot I could take from the experience and bring back with me so I can play at an even higher level.”

NUMBER CRUNCH: 4
First-place finishes for Forest Park’s Mustaqeem Williams in leading the Bruins to the title at last weekend’s Virginia AAA boys’ state track and field championships. Click here for more on the meet, which saw South County win the girls’ competition.

BREAKFAST LINKS
– The Madison boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams advanced to Tuesday’s state semifinals with victories over the weekend.

–In their fourth matchup of the season, Jefferson prevailed against Liberty District rival Langley to win the Virginia AAA state team title in boys’ tennis Saturday.

–In case you missed it, check out Preston Williams’ intriguing feature on how Westfield senior soccer player Carolyn Seltzer made the journey from district championship game to prom all in one night.

–In this week’s More Than A Game, Toni L. Sandys grants a glimpse into Perry Street Prep’s end-of-the year awards ceremony.

WHAT TO WATCH THIS WEEK
The spring All-Met teams will be released online Friday and run in print on Sunday.

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Matt McFarland · May 31, 2013