USA Basketball plans to gauge the interest of Duke University sensation Zion Williamson in joining the Americans’ 12-man squad for the FIBA World Cup in China this summer, according to a person familiar with USA Basketball’s intentions.
No discussions have taken place with Williamson, whose freshman season at Duke ended Sunday with a 68-67 quarterfinal loss against Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.
Formal talks with Williams, the presumptive No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, would most likely take place closer to the draft in June, since Williamson has not officially declared his intention to turn professional and does not yet have an agent licensed by the NBA, said the person who was not authorized to speak publicly.
But the precedent for such an invitation was set by the current USA Basketball hierarchy in 2012, when Anthony Davis — fresh off being drafted No. 1 overall out of Kentucky by the New Orleans Pelicans — earned a roster spot with Team USA at the London Olympics under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The 2019 World Cup, which runs Aug. 31 to Sept. 15 in China, will be the first major competition for the United States since Krzyzewski was succeeded as coach by Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Williamson is widely regarded as the rare sort of talent, like Davis before him, who would not be out of place with the NBA All-Stars expected to fill out Popovich’s roster — no matter who is coaching.
The Athletic reported Monday that the Lakers’ LeBron James, a three-time Olympian, would not make himself available for the World Cup team this summer but that he had not ruled out playing for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
There was some hope in international basketball circles that James would consider playing in the World Cup since the Lakers had missed the playoffs and James would miss the NBA postseason for the first time since 2004-05.
Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of NBA Basketball, declined to discuss James or Williamson specifically when he was reached Monday, saying only that roster invitations “will be addressed at the appropriate time.”