LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – Donovan Mitchell was unable to participate in any Team USA training camps last year because of an injured foot.
This year, Mitchell is in great position to make the national team that will compete in next month’s FIBA World Cup in China, and the Utah Jazz star could not be more excited.
“For me to be here, it’s a blessing,” Mitchell said after the team’s first practice in Las Vegas on Monday. “Obviously, I want to do my best to make the team, but for me, just enjoying the fact that I’m here and just enjoy playing with some of the best players in the world.”
Team USA, which is coached by the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and Golden State’s Steve Kerr, has made headlines for the players who are not with the team anymore.
Damian Lillard, James Harden, Bradley Beal and Anthony Davis are just a few of the NBA superstars who withdrew their names from consideration, citing the need for rest in the off-season.
But Mitchell is happy to step in and represent his country.
“You know for me, my mindset doesn’t change,” Mitchell said. “I can’t control who is not here. I think the biggest thing for us is we take pride in playing for our country and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Mitchell hopes playing with some of the best young players in the league like former Utes star Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker will improve his game when he takes the floor with the Jazz, especially on the defensive end.
“I’m ready to compete and defend,” Mitchell said. “Offensively, I know what I can do. But defensively, I really can ramp it up a little bit. That’s really what I take pride on. Being a leader, coming in and communicating, talking to guys, getting guys ready to go, getting guys in the right spots. I think I can carry this over to the season with the Jazz.”
Mitchell is one of 20 players in camp with Team USA. The roster will be trimmed to 12 on August 17th.
While the rest of the world may see this as a down year for the USA, Mitchell feels a responsibility to help the U.S. stay on top.
“I think a lot of other countries think they see an opening,” Mitchell said. “So for us, we’ve got to go out there and compete and be ready. We’re going to get every team’s best shot. They smell blood, and we’ve got to be ready for whatever comes our way.”
Since the formation of USA Basketball’s National Team program in 2006 by Jerry Colangelo, USA national teams have compiled an 88-1 overall record in FIBA competitions and exhibition games, and claimed top honors in six of seven FIBA competitions.
The FIBA World Cup will take place in China from August 31st to September 15th.