Derrick Low will play for Team USA
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
Derrick Low's latest historic piercing of another major basketball threshold will have him wearing a jersey with "USA" written across the front and competing in a renowned international tournament.
Low, a Washington State University senior and former three-time Advertiser State Player of the Year from 'Iolani School, was one of 12 players selected yesterday for the United States team entered in next week's Pan American Games at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Thirty college basketball standouts from around the country were invited to the tryouts held this past week in Haverford, Pa., and the list was trimmed to 14 on Sunday.
The final cut was made after practice yesterday morning.
"It feels good, it's an honor to represent not only the USA but also my school, Washington State, and also Hawai'i," Low told The Advertiser in a phone interview yesterday.
Team USA will practice in Washington, D.C., tomorrow and Friday and leave for Brazil on Saturday. It will begin play July 25 against Uruguay, then will face Panama and Argentina before the medal round begins July 28.
The Pan Am Games are held every four years; past U.S. team members include Michael Jordan, David Robinson and Grant Hill.
"It's just a phenomenal thing for Derrick, and also for Hawai'i," said 'Iolani coach Mark Mugiishi, who guided the Raiders to three state championships with Low as his point guard. "To represent the whole nation, that's hard to even imagine."
Low, a 6-foot-1 guard, has made a career of sailing into what had been unchartered waters for a basketball player from Hawai'i. He was the first to be named to The Advertiser's All-State first team as a freshman, and the first to be named Advertiser State Player of the Year three times.
This past season, Low was named to the All-Pac 10 Conference team and helped lead Washington State to a 26-8 record and second-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament ó the Cougars' best finish in 24 years.
He was the first men's player from Hawai'i to appear in the second round of an NCAA Tournament.
And now, he will be the first from Hawai'i to represent the United States in international basketball competition.
"It feels pretty neat," Low said. "They gave us all this gear, like sweat pants and shirts and shorts, and they all have 'USA' on it. It feels pretty cool."
To make the roster, Low had to beat out some of the nation's best college basketball players. The tryouts have consisted of two practices per day, and head coach Jay Wright of Villanova announced after yesterday's first practice that the final cut would be made when the team returned to its hotel.
"It was nerve-racking," Low said. "We went back to the hotel for lunch and the coaches were there, so we were all scared (about the announcement). We ate fast and went back to our rooms."
While Low was taking an afternoon nap, Wright went to the rooms of the final two players who were cut to inform them of the news. One of them, Oregon guard Bryce Taylor, had become one of Low's close friends during the tryouts.
"He came up to my room, and that's how I found out," Low said. "I kind of wanted to see him stay (on the team), because it would have been good to have him with us. But it was all right. I felt good to make the team."
Kyle Weaver, one of Low's teammates at Washington State, also made the Pan Am Games roster.
"Honestly, I don't really know what coach Wright saw in both of us, because there was so much other talent out there," Low said. "I think they just wanted the best team that they could win with in Brazil."
The team actually was selected by a committee chaired by Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.
"The trials were as competitive as any we have ever had," Boeheim told the Associated Press on Sunday. "The point guards have really come on ...
"The players worked very hard and they look like they'll be good teammates, guys who will play well together."
Mugiishi said Low fits in well with that kind of criteria.
"They're looking for a team that can win playing the international game," Mugiishi said. "Derrick is a combination guard who has the ball-handling and the shooting, he can penetrate and kick it out or shoot it himself. He's also a quick learner, and they have only one week to practice before the Games start. You can't just take the most talented players, you have to take players who understand the team concept, and it's become clear that Derrick is ideal for that."
Mugiishi said Low also is the type of person coaches are drawn to.
"If anybody could accomplish these things, it would be Derrick because he is a hard worker and is humble and is willing to learn," Mugiishi said. "I knew he would end up doing terrific things, but things like these are like dreams. I'm so proud of him, and so happy for him."
TWO FROM HAWAI'I ON USA'S KAYAK TEAM
Two Hawai'i athletes are members of the U.S. men's and women's canoe/kayak team that will compete in the Pan American Games starting July 25 at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Olympian Andy Bussey of Kailua is scheduled to race in the solo kayak event, and Honolulu's Eric Abbott is expected to be in the two-person kayak event.
The Pan American Games features 5,654 athletes from 42 nations, competing in 37 sports. The program includes all 31 Olympic sports and six Pan American sports (bowling, futsal, karate, roller sports, squash and water skiing).
Team USA has 595 athletes competing in Rio.
Reach Wes Nakama at firstname.lastname@example.org.