Jerami Grant Going For Gold With USA U18 National Team
Colorado Springs, Colo. • June 11, 2012
As training camp for the 2012 USA Basketball Men's U18 National Team winds down and the start of the FIBA Americas U18 Championship on June 16 in Brazil draws ever closer, the 12 members of the U18 squad continue to fight through two-a-day practices at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC) in Colorado Springs, Colo. Among them is Jerami Grant, a 6-7 forward from DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland.
Training camp opened on June 5 with 23 players fighting for one of 12 roster spots. Fourteen finalists for the team were named after the evening practice on June 7, and the official USA roster was announced on June 9. The team departs for the competition in Sao Sebastiao do Paraiso on June 12, and its first game is against U.S. Virgin Islands on June 16.
"Just to know that I'm among the best players in the country, it feels great to be here," Grant said. "We are representing everybody in this country, and we just want to go out and play hard for them. We want to win a gold medal for the USA."
Led by USA head coach Billy Donovan (University of Florida) and assistant coaches Mark Few (Gonzaga University) and Shaka Smart (Virginia Commonwealth University), the United States will look to not only defend the USA's 2010 U18 gold medal, but also to secure a berth into the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship, which goes to the top four finishing teams.
With the exception of James Robinson and Rasheed Sulaimon, who played for USA Basketball in the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit, this is a first-time experience for 10 U.S. team members as well as the three coaches. To help prepare for the upcoming zone championship, the USA scrimmaged players from the Air Force Academy on Saturday at the USOTC -- playing by international rules, of course.
"It's kind of tough to get used to the international rules, but I do like the style," Grant said. "I feel like we are playing well as a group. We won our scrimmage against Air Force, so that's what counts.
"We have a lot of talent on this team, we just have to mold together. In the next few days, I feel like we can do that. We are making friends, and I feel like if we make friends off the court, then that will help us work together on the court."
Grant had a headstart on chemistry with one of his teammates -- he and Robinson played together this past season at DeMatha. The duo helped their team to a 30-6 record, a runner-up finish in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament and a title at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament.
"We had a decent season," Grant said. "We ended it out strong, winning our last tournament. We definitely had a lot of bumps and bruises during the season, but I feel like we did well overall."
Grant and Robinson also prepared together before coming out to training camp in Colorado.
"(James) just said that when I come out here, I'm going to have to play really hard," Grant remembered. "I took it to heart, and I came out here, played hard and made the team.
"This means a lot playing for USA Basketball."
That is no small statement from a player with a basketball pedigree as impressive as Grant's. His father, Harvey Grant, was the the No. 12 pick in the 1988 NBA Draft, and he played 12 seasons in the NBA after a college career that included Clemson University of the University of Oklahoma. His uncle (his father's twin), Horace Grant, played 17 season in the NBA and won four NBA Championships, three with the Chicago Bulls and one with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Growing up, they were sort of just my dad and my uncle," Grant said. "Everybody else looked up to them. I looked up to them, too, but they weren't just superstars to me.
Jerami's older brother, Jerai, played at Clemson, his older brother, Jerian, currently plays at Notre Dame University, and there is one more brother younger than Jerami, Jaelin.
"It was competitive in our house, whether it was my dad or my brothers -- anybody. We played a lot of one-on-one games, and you always had to be ready to play. We were always in the gym. I have a little bit of a competitive edge, and I don't like losing. That definitely shows up when I'm playing."
Grant says his family is not only always there to support and challenge him, they also are there to give him advice and share their experiences.
"They tell me certain things I need to work on, like shooting, because it's harder to get to the basket in college," Grant said of his brothers. "They said that I have to be in the gym 24 hours a day, seven days of week. A lot of players in college get there and think they are already good enough because they were the best player on their team in high school. They let me know that I have to just keep working hard and do whatever it takes."
His father and uncle has a similar, if shorter, message.
"They say be ready. If' I'm going to make it, I'm going to have to put in a lot of hard work."
Hard work is exactly what Grant has been putting in this past week of training camp.
"(Training camp) has been good. I think this is preparing me for college in a way -- playing against stronger players, faster players. This is definitely a plus before college. I think I've improved on my ball-handling skills and my offensive awareness and defensive awareness."
The U.S. team members will return home on June 21, hopefully in possession of a gold medal. Like many of the players headed to college, Grant won't have much time to make the transition, but he said it's not something he is worried about.
"I will be going up (to Syracuse) on July 2. I have about a week-and-a-half to be at home after this, and then I go straight to school. It's definitely tough, but basketball is basketball, and I've been doing this for the majority of my life, so it's kind of normal. This is a great opportunity for anybody, so when I got the invitation, I definitely said, 'OK,' right away."