July 25, 2003
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Blake Stepp became the fourth Gonzaga University men's basketball player to compete for a USA Basketball Gold Medal when he was named to the 12-man USA Pan American Games team on Friday.
Stepp joins John Stockton (1992 and 1996 Olympic Games), Matt Santangelo (1999 World University Games) and Dan Dickau (2001 World University Games) to compete for USA Basketball. Stockton won two golds, Santangelo one and Dickau brought home a bronze.
The 17-man field of finalists was cut to the 12-man team after training camp in Orlando, Fla.
USA Pan American Games head coach has his 12-man team now and will continue to prepare his squad for the Aug. 2-6 Pan American Games men's basketball competition. Selected for the USA team were: Andre Barrett (Seton Hall / Bronx, N.Y.); Josh Childress (Stanford / Los Angeles, Calif.); Ike Diogu (Arizona State / Garland, Texas); Ben Gordon (Connecticut / Mount Vernon, N.Y.); Chuck Hayes (Kentucky / Modesto, Calif.); Chris Hill (Michigan State / Indianapolis, Ind.); Luke Jackson (Oregon / Creswell, Ore.); Arthur Johnson (Missouri / Detroit, Mich.); Brandon Mouton (Texas / Lafayette, La.); Emeka Okafor (Connecticut / Houston, Texas); Rickey Paulding (Missouri / Detroit, Mich.); and Blake Stepp (Gonzaga / Eugene, Ore.). Eligibility for the 2003 USA Basketball Men's Pan American Games Team is open to any male athlete who is a U.S. citizen. The official 12-member U.S. team will continue its Orlando training camp through July 29.
Michigan State University's Tom Izzo is serving as head coach for the 2003 USA Basketball Men's Pan American Games Team and he is assisted by collegiate head coaches Lorenzo Romar from the University of Washington and Quin Snyder from the University of Missouri.
"This is definitely one of the toughest decisions I have ever faced. We had so many players that could have made the team and probably deserved to make it but you can only have 12," commented Izzo. "I think we have a very solid, exciting team that can play good defense, rebound and shoot the ball - you need all three of those things to compete for a medal.
"The trademark of this team will be toughness. We need to gel now and get everyone in a position to be successful. The rest of camp we will scrimmage, put in different looks offensively and defensively, and see what each player can do well. I really like our team but that was an extremely tough decision (to cut to the final 12).
"I told this team that the key is going to be trust," Izzo continued. They have to trust us as coaches and each other that everything is being done with one thing in mind - being the best. When we come together, this is going to be a very tough team to play."
The USA Pan American Games Team, which opened their training on July 20 in Orlando, is preparing for the 2003 Pan American Games that will be played Aug. 26 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Eight nations will compete in the men's basketball competition at the Games. The U.S. is joined by host country, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, and three teams that will be determined at the July 21-27 South American Tournament held in Uruguay.
The eight men's teams will be divided in the preliminary round into two groups of four. Preliminary round games begin on Aug. 2 and go through Aug. 4. Game times during the preliminary round are still unknown. Medal semifinal action takes place on Aug. 5 at 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and the Pan American Games gold medal game will be held on Aug. 6 at 9:00 p.m. All games are held at the Palacio de los Deportes Virgilio Travieso Soto Sports Hall.
Of the 12 players named to the 2003 USA Pan American Games Team, five , Diogu (Associated Press honorable mention), Gordon (Basketball America third team), Johnson (Basketball America third team), Okafor (espn.com second team, Basketball America second team, Basketball Times third team, AP honorable mention) and Stepp (AP honorable mention), earned NCAA All-American honors.
Additionally, Diogu, Jackson, Okafor and Stepp were all-conference first team picks in 2002-03, Barrett, Gordon, Hill, Johnson and Paulding were second team choices, Mouton earned third team honors, and Childress was honorable mention all-league.
Seton Hall guard Barrett is the lone team member boasting of actual USA Basketball international experience and was a member of the 2001 USA World University Games Team that claimed the bronze medal with a 7-1 record. Also, Barrett (1999), Childress (2000) and Stepp (1999), participated in a USA Basketball Youth Development Festival.
USA Men In The Pan American Games The Pan American Games, held every four years in the year prior to the Olympics and organized by the Pan American Sports Organization (PASO), is a multi-sport competition open to men and women representing countries from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean.
The USA men, who fell 95-78 to Brazil in the 1999 gold medal game, have earned a medal in 12 of their 13 Pan Am Games appearances, including a record eight golds, as well as three silvers and one bronze; and currently own a 79-8 (.908) all-time mark at the Pan Am Games.
Held since 1951, the USA dominated the first five Pan Am Games, earning five consecutive golds. At the 1971 Pan Ams, despite a record of 2-1 in the preliminary round, the USA did not advance to the medal round and for the first time in Pan American history did not win the gold medal. However, the United States rebounded for a 26-0 record over the next three Pan Am Games and captured its last Pan Am gold in 1983. While the gold has eluded the U.S. in the past four Games, with the Americans earning three silvers and a bronze medal, the United States is aiming high for 2003.
Many USA Basketball athletes who have been selected to a Pan American Games team have gone on to compete in the Olympic Games, while many others enjoyed stellar professional careers. In all, 34 Pan Am athletes have been a member of a U.S. Olympic squad, including Ernie Grunfeld, Grant Hill, Luscious Jackson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Danny Manning, Chris Mullin, Sam Perkins, Oscar Robertson, David Robinson, Isiah Thomas, Jerry West and Jo Jo White.