Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Youth Served in USA Hoops; Squad in Jacksonville Today Isn't Typical "Dream Team."

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Youth Served in USA Hoops; Squad in Jacksonville Today Isn't Typical "Dream Team."

Article excerpt

Byline: ALEX ABRAMS, The Times-Union

Emeka Okafor is not "the young guy" on the USA men's basketball team, despite what he says.

Okafor, the only player on the Olympic team that has yet to play an NBA game, turns 22 on Saturday, Aug. 28. But he's older than three of his more established Olympic teammates -- Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, 21, Denver's Carmelo Anthony, 20, and Cleveland's LeBron James, 19.

And several "veterans" on the team -- which begins training camp today at the University of North Florida -- aren't much older than Okafor, making this the youngest of the four USA Olympic teams made up of NBA players.

"If you look at our roster, we have a lot of kids that are the future of USA Basketball," USA coach Larry Brown said.

The average age of the 12 players who will represent the U.S. in next month's Summer Olympics in Athens is 23.6 years old.

That's significantly younger than the average age of the 2000 Olympic team (27.7 years old), the original "Dream Team" in 1992 (29.0) and the 1996 team (29.4).

All three teams won the gold medal, something Brown understands might be tougher to do this time around with a less-experienced group of professionals.

"It's going to be a huge challenge for us," Brown said. "The competition has gotten better every year, and we have a very, very young team. But I think it's a neat mix of kids that want to be there."

Newcomers such as Anthony and Okafor were added to the Olympic team after such proven NBA players as Houston's Tracy McGrady and Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal turned down invitations. Their stated reasons ranged from personal reasons to injuries to security concerns.

Anthony said he had no reservations about playing in the Athens Olympics, and he accepted his invitation not long after his stellar rookie season with the Nuggets ended. …

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