COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Lehigh head men’s basketball coach Brett Reed took a special trip to the U.S. Olympic Training Center on Saturday to catch the evening session of the USA Basketball World University Games tryouts. He was there supporting rising junior C.J. McCollum, who was one of 20 players trying out for the United States’ 12-man roster. Lehighsports.com caught up with Reed and got some thoughts about his day, the USA Basketball experience and more.
“I have a care and concern for our current student-athletes; the experiences they have are important to me, and to our basketball family,” said Reed. “I felt it was very important to support C.J. and share in his experience at this tryout.”
Four individuals - Bradford Burgess (VCU), Tu Holloway (Xavier), Alex Oriakhi (Connecticut) and Jordan Taylor (Wisconsin) - had to withdraw from trying out while guards Ray McCallum (Detroit Mercy) and Shabazz Napier (Connecticut) were added, bringing the final tryout pool to 20.
On Sunday, the 14 finalists were announced from a very strong and balanced group. Unfortunately, McCollum - the youngest player invited to try out at only 19 years old - was one of six players who missed the cut, along with standouts Kim English (Missouri), Yancy Gates (Cincinnati), Khris Middleton (Texas A&M), Tony Mitchell (Alabama) and John Shurna (Northwestern). Nevertheless, it was still a tremendous honor to be invited and an unforgettable experience to compete with and be included among the top collegiate players in the nation.
Reed took in Sunday’s evening session. Afterwards, he talked to Lehighsports.com.
What was the day like for you?
Coach Reed: As a coach, to be able to walk on the campus of the Olympic Training Center and to experience the context, the rich history and the tradition of not only USA Basketball, but also athletics as a whole for the United States of America, was truly a humbling experience. I take a great deal of satisfaction in being able to share the experience with C.J. It’s a tremendous honor. He was part of something much bigger than himself and Lehigh University.
How special was it to see C.J. out there trying out?
Coach Reed: It was a pleasure to watch C.J. compete for a spot with USA Basketball. It was a tremendous honor and a special privilege to not only see him demonstrate his talents against many of the top players in the nation, but perhaps more importantly, don a USA Basketball practice jersey and seek the opportunity to represent our country in international play.
How did C.J. look out there?
Coach Reed: Initially, from having not been in attendance in the first session, I was immediately greeted by representatives who were in attendance and watched some of the tryouts. The consensus was that C.J. played well, really demonstrated his talents and represented Lehigh University and himself extremely well. He demonstrated he more than belonged on the court with national level talent. In the end, the committee for USA Basketball had a difficult decision because of a great deal of parity in talent at the tryout camp.
What are some of the challenges that participants face in a training camp environment such as this?
Coach Reed: I think there are a number of obstacles that all the participants face in this type of setting. Number one, there is an altitude adjustment playing at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Secondly, there’s a blending of a lot of different talents from people who haven’t played together in a cooperative environment. Because of that, there’s a lot of feeling each other out and ultimately, trying to develop chemistry out on the floor. To the credit of the participants and the coaches, I thought the play was very unselfish and the players were very well organized.
What does this mean for C.J. to have participated in something like this?
Coach Reed: This was a wonderful opportunity for C.J. to play against national level talent. I feel that this experience will help promote a good deal of confidence moving forward. He showed himself well and played against such a high level of talent and caliber opponents. The experience was phenomenal for him to grow as a player in a sport that he’s passionate about and loves.
How do you think these tryouts will help Lehigh basketball as a whole?
Coach Reed: Ultimately, it was a tremendous privilege and honor for C.J. to be selected for this tryout. I also think there is a byproduct for Lehigh University basketball. We have recently received individual recognition for our players who have had the opportunity to play professionally and be invited to try out for national teams. Along with that, we have continued to receive team recognition for our accomplishments and continued growth as a program. All of these are indicators of the strength of our program and the confidence that we all have for the future of Lehigh basketball as we continue to move forward on not only a regional, but also a national stage.