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USA! USA! (basketball this time)

Update: video of John Shurna's high school slam dunk competition now at the bottom of this post. Just cuz.





Today, we're going to discuss John Shurna, who's representing the good ol' US of A in the U19 World Tournament starting... well, some parts of the USA Basketball website say it starts today, some parts say it starts tomorrow, and as a journalist, my first instinct is to not inquire any further into this and write a post on it today.

Just like I said in the T&T post about Kyle Rowley, participating internationally is great for young John. In my first basketball post, I probably sounded a little harsh when I said "John Shurna is not Kevin Coble." Well, he's not, but he certainly has the potential to be Coble-esque. He's 6'8, has an above average jumper, is a pretty good rebounder for a small forward, and has enough athleticism to win a high school slam dunk competition, which, if you ask me, is how you describe a keeper. On court last year, he looked tentative at best, didn't make it look like he could create his own shot, which I'd hoped he'd be able to. It's just good a) to see him picked to a select squad, especially over guys like fellow Big Elevener, Minnesota's Ralph Sampson III, and b) playing competitively in the offseason. I expect Shurna to play well, especially on a team with relatively few big names. A nine-point eight-rebound performance in a scrimmage against Croatia is what I want more of, both this tournament and with NU next year.

Now, to a quick qualm with USA Basketball. They hired a dude to take professional photos of the U19 team scrimmaging. And the only photo they have of John Shurna is this downright silly snapshot.

John Shurna (55) has an allergic reaction to undercooked shrimp he ate earlier while dribbling

To the naked eye, it looks like a blurry photo of John Shurna doing a hop-step while vomiting, while #67 does the "getting low" portion of the dance to the song "Low" by Flo Rida. And that's about as much insight into the photo as you can get from me. Either Team USA needs a new photographer, or their current photographer doesn't believe in John Shurna's constitutional right not to look really, really silly while dribbling.

A brief aside: A lot of people, including me, were really, really impressed to see Shurna make the USA team. After all, Team USA is associated with pretty much perfect basketball, and Northwestern, well, isn't. But Shurna's selection isn't as surprising as I originally thought.
First off, Shurna isn't the first active Wildcat to suit up for the USA, in fact, he's the ninth since Robert Lebuhn did it in 1955. (For fans of boring lists here's every USA-representin Cat chronologically: Lebuhn, Andre Goode, Shon Morris, Kevin Rankin, Pat Houlihan Baldwin, Geno Carlisle, Steve Lepore, and Evan Eschmeyer.) Nor is he the first to represent the U-19 team - Lepore did that in 1999.

Secondly, the U-19 team isn't exactly the Dream or Redeem team. This year, the bulk of the young talent in the USA program, including guys eligible to compete with the U-19 team, are representing in Belgrade, at the World University games. And the U19 team isn't historically great: they haven't brought home gold since 1991, and despite boasting a roster featuring five players now in the NBA in 2007 such as Stephen Curry, Michael Beasley, and others, they lost to Serbia and finished second. This year, the roster doesn't feature top-notch talent. Despite the fact that I devote far too much free time to the study of basketball, I only know two players on this year's team: Shurna, and the brother of that Stephen Curry fellow, Seth, who I know because he is the brother of that Stephen Curry fellow and not of his own accord. And I'm pretty sure a Washington State coach was involved in the selection process, because in addition to Shurna, who was heavily recruited there, two WSU players made the cut. So, weird.

The first game of the tournament is either today, or tomorrow, as previously noted, against Iran, who, quite frankly, have bigger issues to worry about.

Anyway, don't blame it on the Shurna if the USA doesn't bring it home. They're going up against talented foreign teams, who have been playing together longer than Shurna n Co have.
Then again, I've been wrong before: Led by a two-minute, no-point, one-turnover performance from NU's own Kyle Rowley, the T&T shocked the Caribbean basketball world by taking down Jamaica. Congrats to Rowley and all Trinidadians everywhere.

OK, folks, there's esoteric, and then there's commenting on a blog with a reference to something somebody says in the background of a youtube video of a northwestern basketball player's high school slam dunk competition. BKSherman opted for the latter in the comments. Ask, and you shall receive, so I'm posting said video.