Already having won gold with USA Basketball as a player, Arizona’s Sean Miller will get a chance for another medal as a coach this summer.
That’s only one of the benefits, too. When Miller was named an assistant coach for USA Basketball’s U18 team on Tuesday, that meant he will join the staff of head coach Billy Donovan of Florida, a close coaching buddy.
It also meant that Miller will be working with some of the nation’s top high school players, some of whom he may have already targeted as recruits. That includes one that he has already landed: wing Stanley Johnson of California’s Mater Dei High School.
Although rosters for the June training camp have not been announced, Johnson is likely to be invited because of his prior USA Basketball experience and status as one of the top 18-year-olds in the country. Johnson has already won two golds with USA Basketball teams and is eligible for U18, which requires players to have been born in 1996 or later.
“I’m excited about doing it and also about Stanley Johnson’s involvement in it,” Miller said. “That’s also going to be a special time. Very seldom do you have a chance to work with one of your incoming players at that level, so that’s also something I’m looking forward to.”
Miller, who helped USA win the gold in the 1991 World University Games, was also a court coach for the 2011 World University Games team. This will be his first full coaching assignment for the organization, an invitation he gladly accepted.
“To have a chance to work for USA Basketball is an honor for everyone, whether you’re a player or coach,” Miller said. “I look at it as helping myself become a better coach, and at the same time, any way I can contribute to USA Basketball in a positive manner is something that is quite an honor.”
USA Basketball will hold a training camp for the U18 team in Colorado Springs, Colo., June 10-19. The team will then play in the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, which also includes Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Uruguay. The tournament dates and location are not set yet, but the event will be held later in June.
The top four finishing teams will qualify for the 2015 FIBA U19 World Championship, the same event at which UA freshman Aaron Gordon won the MVP award last summer while leading USA to the gold medal. That team was coached by Donovan.
Oregon has lost six of its past eight games entering its game with Arizona on Thursday, but that isn’t the stat that Miller is focused on.
He looks at this one: 84.7 points scored per game. And maybe this one: 51.4 percent shooting from Jason Calliste, one of several good shooters. Or this one: 81.7 percent free-throw shooting.
“I think the one thing that stands out is the tremendous firepower they have offensively, averaging 85 points a game,” Miller said. “To me, they’re as explosive of an offensive team as we’ve played, having four three-point shooters on the court, including three who are just prolific.
“The way Oregon runs in terms of how fast they run and get up and down the court, how organized they are in the halfcourt, to me it’s the ultimate test of can we stop these guys.”
But there’s also this: In Pac-12 games, Oregon gives up 76.2 average points and a league-worst 47.3 percent field goal shooting.
Oregon coach Dana Altman said he saw defensive weaknesses in December, and the cracks really began to show in January.
“We just hit a gap where we weren’t shooting the ball well, and the defensive deficiencies really showed up,” Altman said. “I didn’t think we were showing the defensive progress we need to make.”
On top of that, Altman said: “We lost a few games, and we got rattled — there’s no other way to put it. … Our guys lost their edge a little bit.”
Cal coach Mike Montgomery might be the 66-year-old dean of Pac-12 coaches, but he still marveled over the atmosphere at Haas Pavilion on Saturday, when Cal’s Justin Cobbs hit a game-winner and fans stormed the floor.
“You wish every game was like that, but it’s just not,” Montgomery said. “It was a really, really good atmosphere. It was what college basketball should be like. … When the shot goes down like that, everybody rockets out of their seats and tries to find somebody to grab ahold of.”