- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison talked like giddy children not long after learning their tickets to the FIBA World Championship had almost been punched.

Arenas and Jamison were selected for the U.S. national team’s 15-man touring roster yesterday, moving one step closer to representing the United States in the championship in Japan next month.

It was another milestone moment for the Washington Wizards teammates, who both entered the league on poor Golden State teams and are now candidates to represent the United States in the 2008 Olympics.

“It’s unbelievable,” Jamison said. “We have shared a lot since we entered the league. He has been there with me on a number of memorable occasions in both my professional career and my personal life. He has been there with me during the time of the birth of my child. We made it to the playoffs together and now to have the opportunity to represent our country together — it is just an unbelievable experience. To go through this experience with Gilbert makes it that much sweeter.”

Arenas, who along with Jamison led the Wizards to the playoffs the past two seasons, expressed similar feelings.

“It is special for both of us because we were on a team in Golden State where we were labeled as selfish,” Arenas said. “They said we were just a selfish group of guys on a bad team. We’ve grown into All-Stars in Washington. We became team players. We became leaders and now together, we are becoming Olympians. Labels don’t mean anything in this league. It is what you believe in your mind.”

The players will return to Las Vegas to continue training next week before the team plays its first game against Puerto Rico on Aug. 3. The team will also play a series of games in China and South Korea in preparation for the world championship on Aug. 19.

A 12-man roster for the championship must be set by Aug. 18.

Three players were not selected in order to trim the roster to 15: Charlotte’s Adam Morrison, Seattle’s Luke Ridnour and Phoenix’s Shawn Marion, who had a minor knee injury. Marion was one of five players invited to try out who were part of the disappointing 2004 Olympic team that earned a bronze medal.

Other players named as finalists include: Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets), Shane Battier (Houston Rockets), Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors), Bruce Bowen (San Antonio Spurs), Elton Brand (Los Angeles Clippers), Kirk Hinrich (Chicago Bulls), Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic), LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers), Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks), Brad Miller (Sacramento Kings), Chris Paul (New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets), Amare Stoudemire (Phoenix Suns) and Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat).

All players who tried out for the team made a three-year commitment to the program, hoping to restore the luster to American basketball.

U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski sounded pleased with what he has seen.

“All of my surprises during the first week of training have been good ones,” Krzyzewski said. “I expected the players to work hard. They worked harder. I expected them to cooperate. They cooperated better. I expected them to listen and they listened better. I expected them to show enthusiasm and they showed enthusiasm at a higher level.

“They showed a spirit of cooperation and I didn’t realize the friendship they already have because I’m not around them, but a lot of these guys are really close friends and that helps with our team building.”

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