Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Flagg: ‘Surprised’ to get invite to join Team USA

LAS VEGAS — When Cooper Flagg got the call from Team USA executive director Grant Hill that he would be part of the Select Team here at Team USA training camp ahead of the Paris Olympics — becoming the first college player in more than a decade to take part in camp — he wasn’t expecting the honor.

“I was pretty surprised just because it’s not like a normal thing,” Flagg told ESPN Sunday, after scrimmaging against the star-studded men’s national team for the first time. “So I was definitely really honored and just excited that I had this opportunity.

“If you think about it, you’re able to learn from … if you look at their team, it’s nobody better. So it’s just being come out here and learn, this is a great experience and I’m really just humbled and I’m really grateful and blessed that I was selected.”

Flagg, who will play for Duke this fall, is a 6-foot-9 forward and is projected by ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo to be the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA draft — a loaded class that several teams seem to have taken steps over the past few weeks to prepare to tank for.

The 17-year-old put up eye-popping numbers in the Nike EYBL League — averaging 26.8 points, 12.4 rebounds, 5.2 blocks and 4.7 assists per game. He led Montverde Academy in Florida to a 30-0 record and a national title in addition to taking part in the Nike Hoop Summit and other high school all-star games.

As a result, Team USA tapped him as the first college player to take part in training camp since Marcus Smart and Doug McDermott did back in 2013 — and, according to Select Team coach Jamahl Mosley, he more than fit in.

“Well, I hadn’t been around him, so just meeting him and talking to him the first day in practice the other day, you can just see the quiet confidence that he carries with himself,” Mosley, the Orlando Magic head coach, told ESPN. “His ability to know what he’s capable of doing, but also the humility of knowing, ‘OK, I’m still trying to figure some of these things out at this level,’ but he’s not afraid of it. And that’s what, that’s one thing you can tell right away.

“[He has a] high basketball IQ, tough, willing to learn,” Mosley continued. “He gets to the spots that he needs to for a shot a lot, able to get to the rim, great touch on his shot.

“I mean, he can play. There’s no in between. There’s me saying, in many different forms, he can just flat out play.”

For his part, Flagg admitted that — at least initially — he was awed by the moment when he stepped onto the court in a scrimmage for the first time Sunday.

“At first I was a little bit blown away when I first walked up here,” Flagg said, “but then once the ball went up, it’s basketball to me at the end of the day.

“We’re all really good players, and I’ve always looked up to everybody on that team. But once we started playing, it was just competing.”

Flagg’s parents were on hand to watch him participate — he said he was happy to have them take part in the experience with him — as was Jon Scheyer, his coach at Duke, where he is likely to spend only one year before entering the NBA. Flagg said he would use his time at the camp to learn as much as he can from the assembled stars he’s preparing to likely join in the league a year from now.

There’s plenty to soak in for a prodigy who isn’t turning 18 until December, and who was born while Kevin Durant was in his freshman season at the University of Texas, and LeBron James was already in the middle of his fourth NBA campaign.

“I think it’s everything,” Flagg said, when asked what he can learn from this experience. “Just the way they conduct themselves, the way they take care of themselves, how they treat their bodies, how they prepare.

“It really is a learning curve and something that you have to learn it and you have to kind of take it from other people and just kind of build your routine. So I think just going to see all their routines, kind of seeing how they interact with the trainers, everybody, and just seeing how they prepare.”

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