EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - With the chance to represent his country, play with some of the game's best players and reunite with his college coach, Mason Plumlee has many reasons to be excited about the opportunity to make the U.S. national basketball team.
"I'm looking forward to the whole experience," said Plumlee, the 6-11 Nets center/power forward who averaged 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 18.2 minutes per game during his rookie season. "It's every kid's dream to play for the national team. I'm grown up and it's still my dream."
On Tuesday, Plumlee was named one of the 16 finalists for the 12-man national team that will compete at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain beginning on Aug. 30.
Plumlee practiced with the national team last week in Las Vegas and said it was beneficial to play with stars such as the Thunder's Kevin Durant and the Bulls' Derrick Rose.
"You learn a lot from those guys," Plumlee said. "Everybody is very decisive [and] deliberate in what they do."
Nets coach Lionel Hollins said the experience will be great for Plumlee.
"I talked to him and he's excited," Hollins told Newsday in a phone interview. "You never know when an opportunity presents itself and one presented itself to him in Vegas and he grabbed it, he's run with it and I wish him the best of luck. And I hope that he does make the team, but if he doesn't, it's been a fabulous experience and fantastic summer for him."
Plumlee dismissed the notion that he only got his chance with USA Basketball because of his Duke connection. Plumlee played at Duke for Mike Krzyzewski, who has coached the national team since 2006.
"If anybody knows Coach K, he didn't get to where he is by doing favors for people," Plumlee said. "He'd be the first to get me out of there if I wasn't cutting it."
Plumlee said the chance to wear a Team USA jersey would "mean a lot. I've had family fight for the country [and] I appreciate the sacrifice those people have made."
The national team will resume practicing on Aug. 14 in Chicago. After an exhibition against Brazil on Aug. 16, preparations then move to New York City and Madison Square Garden. The national team will play exhibition games at the Garden on Aug. 20 against the Dominican Republic and Aug. 22 against Puerto Rico.
Fellow big men among the final 16 include DeMarcus Cousins of the Kings, Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, the Nuggets' Kenneth Faried and Andre Drummond of the Pistons. Plumlee believes he has a good shot to make the team.
"I have a very good chance," Plumlee said. "I had a strong week of practice and we'll have a whole month to show more. To me, there are probably five, six, seven guys that are locks. And then the rest of us are playing for those last couple of spots. It'll go to whoever fits what Coach wants best."
With Roderick Boone