First there were nerves. Lots of them. And then relief, followed by elation.
Sixteen of the nation’s top 16-year-old boys basketball players, among them Cardinal Newman sophomore Scottie Barnes, were sitting in a room in Colorado Springs, Colo., earlier this month, waiting to hear their names called as members of USA Basketball’s U16 men’s national team.
Twelve would make the cut. The other four finalists would go home.
One-by-one the names were announced. Barnes, a a 6-foot-7 forward rated five stars by ESPN, waited. And waited some more.
Finally, he heard his name.
“I was the 10th pick,” said Barnes, who had spent a week training alongside 33 other Team USA hopefuls. He was named one of 16 finalists June 5. “I was crossing my fingers, hoping I’d make the team. It was one of my best moments.”
More were to come for Barnes, an All-Area second-team selection for the Crusaders last season.
After a few more workouts in Colorado Springs after the final selections, Team USA departed for Formosa, Argentina, site of the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
The competition, which was held June 14-18, featured eight national teams from North, South and Central America, and the Caribbean.
The United States won gold medals in all four editions of the biennial event, which was first held in 2009. Barnes, who was named to the CBS MaxPreps Freshman All-American Team in April, was eager to make it five.
“Wearing the Team USA jersey just makes you want to play harder,” he said. “We were all together for a long time. We all had a close bond.”
That showed on the court.
The Americans were dominant in Argentina, opening with a 110-69 win against Puerto Rico, and closing with a 111-60 rout of previously unbeaten Canada in the championship game June 18.
In between, Team USA defeated the Dominican Republic 94-45, Mexico 127-52, and host Argentina 121-49.
The United States’ margin of victory through five games? Nearly 58 points.
Barnes played a big role in the United States’ success, averaging 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds, and hitting 91 percent from the free-throw line.
He had a game-high 20 points against Argentina, and finished with a total of 12 steals — second-best on the team.
“Every time I stepped on the court, I played my heart out,” said Barnes, who averaged 14 minutes per game.
The Americans shined despite playing a different game than they were used to at home.
“It’s a lot slower,” Barnes said of international basketball. “They let you bump more. They don’t call certain types of fouls that they call down here. The playing style is different. There’s a lot of rules.”
In the end, it didn’t matter.
Winning a gold medal was a once-in-a-lifetime feeling, Barnes said.
“As soon as the buzzer went off, we went to the middle of the court and started jumping and screaming,” he said. “We had so much joy. It was the biggest game of them all, and going out there and playing really hard and winning by 60 – it was great.”
Barnes, who holds college offers from Florida, Miami and UCF, hopes to get another chance to play for Team USA.
The men’s national team will return to Argentina next year for the 2018 FIBA U17 World Cup for Men, and Barnes wants to be there.
“I’ll definitely try out again,” he said.