Team USA assistant coach Erik Spoelstra answers a query from the working media at Team USA Basketball’s camp at Kerry Sports Manila in Taguig on Thursday (ABS-CBN News photo courtesy)

MANILA – The 2023 FIBA World Cup presents a formidable obstacle for Team USA, as they enter the tournament without their seasoned veterans and instead rely on a lineup of young NBA talents.

The average age of Team USA’s 12-man roster stands at 24.5 years. The team’s youngest member, Paolo Banchero, is a mere 20 years old, while the oldest players, Josh Hart and Bobby Portis, are 28.

According to assistant coach Erik Spoelstra, this World Cup will serve as a litmus test for their emerging stars.

“We are confident in our readiness,” stated the Filipino-American NBA championship-winning coach during USA Basketball’s training camp at Kerry Sports Manila in Taguig on Thursday. “However, we recognize the immense challenge ahead. This competition gathers the world’s premier nations in basketball, and the global popularity of the sport is truly remarkable.”

Ranked second worldwide, the American team aims to avenge their seventh-place standing in the 2019 tournament. Nevertheless, the Miami Heat mentor acknowledged that other nations have made significant strides in matching their talent and skill levels.

“Undoubtedly, it’s a considerable challenge. We are competing against teams that have cultivated years of chemistry, while we are assembling a relatively youthful squad within a six-week span,” noted Spoelstra in reference to the Steve Kerr-led team. “Our opponents have established cohesion over many years, yet our team is highly motivated. We understand that collective effort is imperative in achieving our ultimate objective.”

Simultaneously, Spoelstra expressed his enthusiasm for sharing the Filipinos’ profound passion for the sport—a passion that has consistently bolstered his own success in basketball.

“I am thrilled to witness the fervor for basketball here in Manila. I’ve attempted to convey to everyone that experiencing this atmosphere firsthand in Manila is incomparable. Even within 24 hours of being here, the players now grasp what I’ve been discussing,” he remarked.

Team USA’s inaugural match is slated for August 26 at 8:40 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena, where they will square off against New Zealand in their opening group game. (ai/mnm)