SIOUX CITY | No matter how incredible the journey happens to be, there will always be disappointments.
Adam Woodbury, who graduated from East High with honors a few weeks ago, knew better than to take things personally when he was cut loose June 17 from the USA Men’s 18-and-under basketball team.
“Just being asked to try out for the team was an honor,’’ said the 7-foot 1-inch Woodbury, one of 23 candidates invited to a camp at which University of Florida Coach Billy Donovan picked 12 players to represent the U.S. at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships in Sao Sebastiao de Paraiso, Brazil.
Donovan made his 12 selections after three intensive days of scrimmages, Woodbury said. Oddly enough, Donovan and his top assistants, Mark Few of Gonzaga and Shaka Smart of Virginia Commonwealth, elected not to keep any of four true post players in the mix, all of them headed for solid NCAA Division I programs.
“I guess it just wasn’t to be,’’ said Woodbury, named MVP last June at the NBA Top 100 Camp. “I was impressed by the way the coaches handled themselves, though. They were good guys. They pointed out different things. Everybody there had their little moments. Everybody could play. It was a good experience.’’
Donovan’s final dozen, incidentally, opened play Saturday in Brazil with a 105-42 rout of the U.S. Virgin Islands and then walloped Mexico 110-59 on Sunday. They completed pool play Monday night against Brazil, both assured a spot in the eight-team event’s Tuesday semifinals.
Meanwhile, Woodbury was making lemonade, so to speak, taking advantage of the disappointment to begin classes Monday, when the University of Iowa’s six-week summer school session got under way. He’ll already have six credit hours in the bank when the fall semester begins after taking three-hour classes in Intro to Pre-History and Asian Art (his eleventh-hour enrollment didn’t leave many course options, he pointed out).
At the same time, he’ll start getting acquainted with his future Iowa teammates in the four-team Prime Time League, which begins play tonight in North Liberty, where there’ll be games once a week through July 15. After that, the league semifinals are Sunday, July 22, and the championship game is two nights later.
Woodbury was drafted by the Vinton Merchants/Mike Gatens Real Estate squad that also includes Heelan grad Zach McCabe, Josh Oglesby and Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff on a nine-player roster. Uthoff, a former Cedar Rapids Jefferson star who met Woodbury and his East teammates in a state tournament game two years ago, will be sitting out this season at Iowa after spending a year in Madison.
“I’m going to work as hard as possible and if good things happen, then so be it,’’ said Woodbury. “I can’t really control what Coach (Fran McCaffery) decides, but if I work as hard as possible, I can’t really have any regrets.
“I grew up an Iowa fan, so just being able to put that jersey on is going to be pretty special.’’
Point guard Mike Gesell from South Sioux City beat his close friend, Woodbury, to the Iowa City campus by two weeks, electing to enroll in the eight-week summer school session. He’ll play on the Prime Time League’s Skogman Realty team with Melsahn Basabe and former Iowa forward Jarryd Cole, now playing professionally in France.
As for that U.S.A. U18 squad (despite the clumsy label, this level of competition is for athletes who’ll be 18 and under as of Dec. 31), two athletic power forwards are heading up the inside game in the tournament in Brazil.
Donovan is starting 6-8, 245-pound Jarnell Stokes, a Memphis native who wasn’t eligible for his senior year of high school hoops last winter and, instead, graduated early and played the second semester for Tennessee. Meanwhile, Memphis recruit Shaq Goodwin from Decatur, Ga., a 6-8, 235-pounder, had 30 points off the bench in the team’s opening game, adding 13 in a balanced effort against Mexico.
Other starters in the team’s first two games have been Syracuse recruit Jerami Grant, a 6-7 forward from legendary De Matha High School in Hyattsville, Md.; Oklahoma State signee Marcus Smart, a 6-3 guard from Flower Mound, Texas; and two high school seniors-to-be -- 6-1 point guard Nathaniel Britt II from Upper Marlboro, Md., and 6-8, 235-pound Julius Randle from McKinney, Texas.
Besides, Goodwin, two more key performers off the bench thus far have been 6-7 forward Jake Layman from Wrentham, Mass., and 6-4 guard Rasheed Sulaimon from Houston. They’re both headed to ACC schools -- Maryland and Duke, respectively -- and Britt, by the way, has already committed to North Carolina, yet another ACC power.
In case you’re wondering, former Linn-Mar point guard Marcus Paige, another North Carolina recruit, wasn’t eligible because he’ll turn 19 on Sept. 11. And, another future Tar Heel, 6-10, 265-pound center Joel James from West Palm Beach, Fla., was one of those four true posts who didn’t make the cut for Brazil.
The others were 6-11, 255-pound Robert Upshaw of Fresno, Calif., who’ll stay at home to play for Fresno State, and 6-8, 240-pound Georgia Tech recruit Robert Carter from Thomasville, Ga.