Derrick White’s great offseason keeps getting better. After shining in Summer League, the Spurs’ prospect will be making his Team USA debut on Friday, September 14, against Uruguay in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
White headlines a squad that will feature a combination or NBA players and G-League standouts to start the second round of qualifiers under the leadership of coach Jeff Van Gundy. Team USA led Group C in the first round with a 5-1 record after beating Cuba and Puerto Rico twice and splitting the series with Mexico. Now it will face Uruguay and Panama to kick off the second round for Group E, which also includes Puerto Rico, Argentina and Mexico. The teams with the three best records of Group E and Group F and the team with the fourth overall record will represent the Americas in the World Cup.
If this qualification format feels unfamiliar, it’s because it was implemented this year. In the past, entry to the World Cup and the Olympics was determined by placement on regional tournaments like FIBA Americas and Eurobasket. Not anymore. FIBA has adopted a format that is similar to soccer World Cup qualifiers in which national teams get together in predetermined calendar windows to compete against one another, instead of doing so in a tournament setting. It’s a controversial decision that has forced a lot of squads, including the U.S. to feature talent other than their best.
But this new format has provided an opportunity for players like White to join Team USA. While he was not part of the player pool that was invited over the summer to the minicamp led by Gregg Popovich, White will have a chance to represent his country in the next two games of the qualifiers, along such teammates as the Hornets’ Dwayne Bacon, the Kings’ Frank Mason and former first round pick and Pistons big man Henry Ellenson. It’s unlikely any of the players competing in the qualifiers will make the World Cup roster over more established NBA stars, but it’s still a good experience that players seem to cherish.
It will certainly be a good opportunity for White to continue to get reps in a crucial summer. He showed signs of being ready to make a leap in what will be his third year in the NBA by dominating Summer League play. Now he’ll likely have a significant role in a Team USA squad that will count on him to provide scoring and defense in the perimeter. With Mason and Chasson Randle likely splitting most point guard minutes and a couple of other small shooting guard on the roster, White will likely play on the wing. His length should allow him to excel at that position in the international game.
White won’t face any NBA players in the next two games. Team USA has a clear talent advantage over both Uruguay and Panama, which boast a combined 7-5 record. They should have little trouble getting both wins this time around, after dropping a game to Mexico back in June.
How to watch Derrick White represent Team USA against Uruguay
Time: Friday, Sept. 14, 9 p.m. CST
Place: Cox Pavilion, Las Vegas, NV
How to watch Derrick White represent Team USA against Panama
Time: Monday, Sept. 17, 10 p.m. CST
Place: Roberto Duran Arena, Panama City, Panama