Gordon Hayward made significant strides in his game during the 2015-16 season, and now the Utah Jazz star is hoping to take the next step with USA Basketball this summer.
Coming off his sixth year in the NBA, his best individual season as a pro, Gordon has been named by the United States Senior Men’s National Basketball Team as one of 31 finalists vying for 12 roster spots for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Team USA announced Monday its list of 31 finalists for the Olympic squad, as well as plans for the road those hopefuls will take en route to the Summer Games, starting with the 2016 USA Basketball Showcase.
“I think I’ve done everything I can to try to make the team,” Gordon said. “It’s up to the USA Basketball Committee. If they pick me, I’ll be ecstatic. If not, that’s how it goes sometimes.”
G-Time has a long history representing his country. He first helped guide USA Basketball’s U-19 squad to a world championship in 2009 while still in school at Butler University. Since then, he has been on the radar of Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo.
“I respect the heck out of him in terms of his willingness to pay the price, pay his dues,” Colangelo said. “You never know what the future holds. He’s the kind of a player who can contribute in so many different ways. He has the character. He’s got the talent. It’s just having the opportunity.”
Versatility is key, as Team USA will look to navigate through a slate of eight games in a span of 15 days, in an effort to defend their consecutive Olympic gold medals from the 2008 and 2012 games. As a 6-foot-8 wing who is capable of playing and guarding multiple positions, Gordon certainly presents a skillset that USA Basketball values.
G-Time’s versatility, as well as his international experience, helped him make it all the way to the final round of cuts ahead of the 2014 FIBA World Cup. He was one of just 16 players remaining in contention that summer but was one of the final four players not chosen for the roster that went on to win the top prize in Spain that summer.
Since then, Gordon has been working hard to add to his physical and mental skill sets, in an effort to distinguish himself among the world’s best players in the NBA. He responded in the 2014-15 season, raising his scoring average by more than three points per game. This past season was even better for No. 20. He averaged a career-high 19.7 points per game, along with 5.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals.
He played a career-high 80 games and finished second in the league in minutes played while leading an injury-riddled Jazz team to its most wins in three seasons. Along the way, Gordon established himself as one of the best wing players in the NBA, comparing favorably in every statistical category to the best small forwards in the league: He finished the season as one of five players in the NBA to average 19.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting over .345 on three-pointers.
But while Gordon’s game has made significant strides since 2014, he also knows that he’ll still have to beat the cream of the crop in American basketball to secure one of those 12 roster spots.
The other 30 players competing for a trip to Rio are: LaMarcus Aldridge; Carmelo Anthony; Harrison Barnes; Bradley Beal; Jimmy Butler; Mike Conley; DeMarcus Cousins; Stephen Curry; Anthony Davis; DeMar DeRozan; Andre Drummond; Kevin Durant; Kenneth Faried; Rudy Gay; Paul George; Draymond Green; Blake Griffin; James Harden; Dwight Howard; Andre Iguodala; Kyrie Irving; LeBron James; DeAndre Jordan; Kawhi Leonard; Damian Lillard; Kevin Love; Chris Paul; Klay Thompson; John Wall; and Russell Westbrook.
“Hopefully, I’ll make it,” G-Time said. “But you never know.”
The Senior Men’s National Team will stage training camp from July 18-21 in Las Vegas, followed by a July 22 friendly meeting with Argentina. They’ll then head southwest for a three-day camp from July 23-25 in Los Angeles, followed by a pair of exhibitions against China. The first will come July 24 in L.A., and the second in Oakland on July 26. Chicago will host a July 29 friendly against Venezuela, and the USMNT will close its showcase on Aug. 1 in Houston against Nigeria.
“Building our team chemistry quickly is vital, and the 2016 USA Basketball Showcase will offer our players and coaches the opportunity to become familiar with each other, to develop chemistry and to gain critical international experience against a variety of differing styles,” Krzyzewski said in a statement. “We’ll face some excellent and experienced international teams, which will be important in our preparations. Playing five exhibition games in the United States in front of home crowds will be memorable for our players and fans alike, and we look forward to representing the United States in the best manner we can.”
- 2016 USA Basketball Showcase (USA Basketball, Apr. 25, 2016)
- US Men’s Olympic Basketball Draw and Preliminary Round Schedule Announced (USA Basketball, Mar. 11, 2016)
- USA Basketball announced schedule; Hayward hopeful (Deseret News, Apr. 25, 2016)
- Jazz’s Gordon Hayward to Participate in 2016 USA Basketball Showcase (Utah Jazz, Apr. 25, 2016)