BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Clem Haskins has been involved with U.S. teams in international competition before and believes he knows what it takes to succeed. So the University of Minnesota coach was looking for a certain type of player when he helped select the 12 men who will represent the United States in the 1998 Goodwill Games.
"It's not always the guy who has the most athletic ability, who can run the floor and do all those pretty things," Haskins said Thursday after announcing his final roster. "But you've got to have that will, that desire, that toughness, that mean streak in you that it takes to compete when you're going against men. We're going against men."
The U.S. team, which includes Xavier senior James Posey and Miami senior Wally Szczerbiak, begins play in the Goodwill Games at 2:05 p.m. Sunday (CBS) against reigning gold medalist Puerto Rico.
Most teams in the eight-team tournament have been competing together for years, and six will be competing at the World Championships next month in Athens, Greece.
The U.S. team heads into New York's Madison Square Garden as an underdog.
Haskins said the average age of his players is close to 20 1/2 years and that the average age of the U.S. opponents is 27.
"These are older, very mature guys," he said. "These are pros we're going against. . . . We're going for one thing and that's to win the gold. But we have to be realistic. The experience and size we're going against is going to make it very difficult for us.
"I think if our youth would play hard, play within themselves and play together, we can overcome those odds."
Calvin Booth (6-foot-11, Penn State) is the closest to a true center on the roster, though Duke's 6-8 Elton Brand will start in the post.
Haskins named three of his starters Thursday: point guard Andre Miller (Utah), forward Jumaine Jones (Georgia) and Brand. He said all 12 players will play in every game, and he may start different lineups during the competition.
The Americans will try to take advantage of their depth. They want to apply as much defensive pressure as possible and not allow games to be played in the half-court.
Szczerbiak, the first Miami player to compete for the United States, is among several who will play major roles because of their outside shooting.
"Wally is a tremendous basketball player," Haskins said. "He's one of the guys who will have a great chance to start for us. He's one of those tough guys who gets tough buckets."
Posey, likewise, becomes the first Musketeer to play for a USA Basketball team in international competition.
"James is a very, very athletic young man and probably one of the most explosive players on our ballclub," Haskins said. "No. 1 is the heart I measure that guy with, how much heart he has to play with.
"He plays with reckless abandon. He doesn't worry about his body . . . He'll give it all to you. His great effort and athletic ability and willingness to play as part of a team has impressed me. He's some kind of player. I can see why they win (at Xavier), because this young man, when you strap it on, he gives you everything he's got."
The U.S. team was scheduled to practice at the New Jersey Nets facility in Newark, N.J., through Saturday.