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By LARRY VAUGHT
Future Kentucky teammates Marquis Teague and Mike Gilchrist both helped the United States win the 17 and under World Championship with a perfect 8-0 mark last summer. However, both insist they want to win SaturdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Nike Hoop Summit against a world select team in Portland every bit as much as they did the world championship.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“If the jersey says USA, then I want to win,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Gilchrist, a forward from Philadelphia who averaged 15 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in the world championship play last summer. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Every chance I have, I want to represent my country well. I am having fun with everybody on the team because they are all good guys, but I want to win.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I always play to win. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like losing. I always want to win, but especially for my country and that is what this is. That is why I try to do everything I can on the floor to win. I score, rebound, defend, pass or whatever. Winning is what it is about.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Teague, who averaged 7.1 points and a team-best 6.0 assists per game in the world championship, calls it a Ã¢â‚¬Å“big dealÃ¢â‚¬Â to play for his country.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“You want to take advantage of this opportunity and play well. We have a lot of talent on this team. We are unselfish and know how to play together,Ã¢â‚¬Â Teague, a point guard from Indianapolis, said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You are going to see us defending the whole game, playing hard and being unselfish. We are going to give an all-out effort to win because it is important to win.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Another future Cat, center/forward Anthony Davis of Chicago, will be playing in his first international competition. He averaged 32 points, 22 rebounds and seven blocked shots per game as a senior.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“This is a big, big deal representing my country and playing against the world team,Ã¢â‚¬Â Davis said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Going against elite players is special. I am also blessed to have such talented guys on my team. I am kind of new to this scene, but the other guys are teaching me a lot and we are all making each other better.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Gilchrist and Teague both insist they are better players than they were last summer.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am always working on my game, so I should be better,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gilchrist said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am just having fun on the court. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know a lot about the world team other than (future Wildcat) Kyle (Wiltjer) is a very good player and I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t surprised when he won the McDonaldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (All-American Game) 3-point contest. We just have to play the game the way I know we can.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Gilchrist had 16 points in the McDonaldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s game to earn co-MVP honors himself.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that important. It was just an all-star game,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gilchrist said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I was just having fun with all of this, but those type honors donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t matter. Winning does.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Teague said his senior season Ã¢â‚¬Å“went wellÃ¢â‚¬Â even though his team lost four games compared to only one that GilchristÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s powerhouse team lost.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I played better defense and did a better job leading my team,Ã¢â‚¬Â Teague said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I learned how to be a better leader in every respect because I know my main thing at Kentucky will be to lead the team. I know more about what to do in time and situations. I know more about who to get the ball to and win, and that makes me able to play even quicker.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Davis had a more difficult senior season because he was often double- or triple-teamed because of the lack of quality players on his team.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I just had to work through it, and we did,Ã¢â‚¬Â Davis said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But that is why playing in a game like this with so many talented teammates is so much fun for me. I never grew up thinking about the Olympics or anything like that, but to represent my country and win, which I think we can do, would be great.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Teague and Davis both say a summer of AAU play followed by a high school season and now all-star games can by hard physically, but neither is complaining.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My mind is not tired because is what I want to do,Ã¢â‚¬Â Teague said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Your body gets tired, but you just suck it up and keep playing,Ã¢â‚¬Â Davis said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nice to travel and see different places. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great experience. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see how anybody could complain about getting to do the things I am.Ã¢â‚¬Â