- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Gilbert Arenas didn’t have to be inside dark, muggy Verizon Center yesterday afternoon, running up and down every single step in the top tier of the building.

But that’s where the Washington Wizards guard was, performing the merciless routine alongside Drew Cleary, the team’s strength and conditioning coach.

Arenas, 24, is in final preparations for what he considers the biggest and most important test of his basketball career. In less than a week, Arenas will be in Las Vegas hoping to make the U.S. national team, which will play in the world championship in Japan later this summer. Arenas also hopes to land a spot on the 2008 Olympic team.

“I want to make sure that I’ve covered all areas,” a sweat-soaked Arenas said. “I’m not going to go out there and let anybody outwork me.”

Arenas will not be the only member of the Wizards participating in the camp that begins July 19. Forward Antawn Jamison also will be one of the 23 players in Las Vegas.

Arenas, a five-year veteran, scored a career-high 29.3 points a game — the second-highest season average in franchise history — and handed out a team-high 6.1 assists a game last season.

Arenas welcomes the chance to play with and compete against other stars like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

“I’m excited … a little nervous,” Arenas said. “It’s just like when you see rookies come in and they are trying to make a squad. That is how I feel going out there. It’s different. I have to go out there and fight and try and win a spot on that team.”

Arenas, like everyone else, is well aware of the Olympic fiasco in 2004, when the U.S. team finished an embarrassing third.

The 2008 team will be as scrutinized as any Olympic basketball team, and Arenas hopes to help it atone for what happened in 2004.

“It’s the best players in the game,” Arenas said. “It’s like an All-Star Game. We all heard about the Dream Team and how they worked, and we want to duplicate that.”

Jamison, who is running a basketball camp in his hometown of Charlotte, N.C., also looks forward to the tryouts.

“Trying out for the U.S. team is such a dream come true,” he said. “I remember watching Michael, Magic and Larry back on the original Dream Team as a kid, and I always wanted to be a part of it. It goes so much farther than basketball and the NBA because you’re representing your country.”

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