Three former University of Kentucky stars — Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall — were among the 30 players selected Monday as finalists for the U.S. basketball team that will attempt to win a third straight gold medal in Rio de Janeiro. Former Morehead State standout Kenneth Faried is also on the list.
The final 12-player roster will be chosen this summer.
Davis, who led Kentucky to a national championship in 2012, collected gold medals with USA Basketball as a member of the 2012 Olympic team and the 2014 FIBA World Cup team. He averaged 12.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks for the World Cup team.
Cousins, was also part of the 2014 FIBA World Cup team that went 9-0. He came off the bench for that team and averaged 9.6 points and 5.6 rebounds, in addition to a team-best .702 field-goal percentage.
“It’s always an honor to play for the USA team,” Cousins said. “It’s not a chance everybody gets. … Hopefully I make the team and am in Rio this summer.”
Cousins didn’t speculate on his chances of making the roster, but he said “you always need bigs. No matter how much the game changes, you always need bigs.”
LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are a step closer to a fourth Olympics, and Stephen Curry is in position for his first. If James and Anthony are on the U.S. roster they would become the first American men to play in four Olympics.
The other candidates for Rio are: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City); Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan (Clippers); Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio); Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes (Golden State); Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love (Cleveland); Dwight Howard and James Harden (Houston); Paul George (Indiana); Rudy Gay (Sacramento); Bradley Beal (Washington); Jimmy Butler (Chicago); Mike Conley (Memphis); DeMar DeRozan (Toronto); Andre Drummond (Detroit) and Gordon Hayward (Utah).
“The depth of talent that exists in the national team program is extraordinary. Repeating as gold medalists at the 2016 Olympics will not be easy, but we feel confident that we have 30 finalists who offer amazing basketball abilities and special versatility,” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a statement.
Kobe Bryant, who is retiring after this season, took himself out of the running for a third Olympics this weekend.
James and Anthony have already joined Hall of Famer David Robinson as the only U.S. men to play in three Olympics, winning bronze in 2004 before leading the U.S. to gold in Beijing and London. Paul could join that list this summer.
James has said he would base his decision about playing on his health and his family’s wishes, and might not decide until after his NBA season ends.
“I haven’t thought about it,” he said at Cleveland’s shootaround before its game against Golden State on Monday.
“The last time I thought about Team USA was Kobe taking his name out of the pool. That’s the last thing I kind of really thought about, so I’m not any inch closer to playing or not any inch closer to not playing. I haven’t really thought about it much.”
After playing in five straight NBA Finals, another lengthy season could impact his interest in wearing the red, white and blue again.
“The season has always kind of dictated it,” James said.
Ten of the players have suited up for the Americans in the Olympics, but Curry isn’t among them. He wasn’t chosen for the team in 2012, shortly before the NBA’s MVP broke out as one of the game’s biggest superstars.
He won gold medals in the 2010 world basketball championship and 2014 Basketball World Cup and will be a strong candidate to make the Olympic team now even in a crowded point guard field that includes Paul, Westbrook, Irving — the MVP of the World Cup in Spain two years ago — Wall and Conley.
Colangelo has said the Americans could send their strongest team yet to the Olympics, and it could certainly be their most experienced one. The pool of finalists includes 18 players who have won Olympic or world championships, and seven players who have played at least 30 international games — led by Anthony’s 72.
“This selection process was difficult from the start, and obviously it is only going to get more difficult as we look to get to the official, 12-man roster,” U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I’m excited about the possibilities this team has.”