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USA's Reggie Hearn - ''I dreamed about this as a kid''
Colorado Springs (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers) – Since the summer of 2017, no one has played more games for the USA senior men's team than Reggie Hearn. He has helped the Americans to a 7-1 record, tied with Argentina for the top of Americas Group E with four games to play.
The closest thing to a constant, if there has been one on the court for USA Basketball through the FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifying process, has been the 27-year-old Hearn who has dressed 13 times for his national team, including 6 of 8 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifying games, following last year's gold medal run in the FIBA AmeriCup tournament in Argentina and Uruguay.
To date, 37 different athletes, 5 of whom had played in the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup tournament, have suited up for the USA in four qualifying windows. That's an average changeover of inserting 8 first-timers into the 12 player rosters for each two-game window.
Reggie Hearn (10) won a gold medal at the AmeriCup and has been working to help other players achieve the same at the next World Cup.
Even with USA Basketball 's decision to deputize G League and overseas players for the new qualifying process, this churn has been necessitated by the ever-changing status of those players with NBA call-ups and other career opportunities, many related, in part, to their USA experience.
As he competes this week in pre-season training for the Detroit Pistons, Hearn knows that his play with the USA in the qualifying games, as well as the gold medal winning FIBA AmeriCup team, has played a big part in his being there.
"It's a great opportunity for us and I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that even though this is something we do, and there's not an incredible amount of pay for it, we are receiving benefits. For me, you could say I'm the poster child for this team, coming in to do these qualifying games and the AmeriCup, and that is something that has helped to catapult my own career."
Indeed, the reason that Hearn didn't play in the second window of the first round was due to his signing a two-way contract with the Pistons and the Grand Rapids Drive.
"The connection between Jeff (Van Gundy) and Stan (Van Gundy, then the Pistons coach and president of basketball operations) and me ending up in Detroit, I think USA Basketball has really helped those of us who are playing in the qualifying windows."
Interim USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy has worked through constant change of players to create a consistent winning formula.
While Stan Van Gundy is now departed, Hearn is in the second season of the two-year contract he signed with the Pistons last January. The team is supportive of his time with USA Basketball, which included Detroit teammate Henry Ellenson in this last window.
"Any time you have a chance to represent your country, as well as the Pistons in a high-level competition like Henry and Reggie participated in, you have to feel good about it,” said Gregg Polinsky, Detroit Pistons Director of Player Personnel. "Both young men had very positive experiences, which can only serve them well going forward."
USA WCQ Rosters
In total, only 9 of the 37 players have played two WCQ windows (4 games). Only Hearn has played in 3 of the 4 so far.
|Round 1.1||Round 1.2||Round 1.3||Round 2.1|
Larry Drew II ^
Reggie Hearn ^
Jonathan Holmes ^
Xavier Munford ^
Jameel Warney ^
Larry Drew II **
Travis Wear **
Taylor Braun **
Reggie Hearn **
Jonathan Holmes **
Amile Jefferson **
Trey McKinney Jones
Xavier Munford **
David Stockton **
Rashawn Thomas **
Reggie Hearn ***
Frank Mason III
Jameel Warney **
^ on AmeriCup roster * number of WCQ windows on roster
Hearn has been an asset to the team both on and off the court. His experience, along with that of Jameel Warney, from playing in the cauldron of the AmeriCup and previous qualifiers has helped to inform the influx of new USA players to the intricacies of the FIBA game.
"From the first day we got here Coach Van Gundy has been telling the guys that the game is going to be intense, it's going to be tough, the fouls are going to be different, the style of play is a lot more aggressive," Hearn told FIBA just before USA hosted Uruguay in September.
"I took the opportunity to speak up and reiterate what he was saying because I know from being a player myself that sometimes you feel the coach is just hyping you up, is trying to make you think that the situation is more dire than it is, that he's trying to inspire and motivate you. I felt the need to speak up and tell the guys my own experience that the style of play is a lot more aggressive; it is a lot different, the fouls are called much differently."
Over five WCQ games – he didn't play against Uruguay due to injury - Hearn has averaged 12.2 points and 4.2 rebounds, shooting a remarkable 55 percent from the field and an even more impressive 64 percent from behind the 3-point line.
The USA selection process, led by Men's National Team Director Sean Ford, has focused on team chemistry in putting together the revolving rosters that Van Gundy and his staff must then get into sync for each the qualifying windows.
"At one point in time, all of us have been "the guy", whether that's in college or G League teams," said Hearns, "but we have to come in here and fit a role and play to the scheme of Coach, the way he best believes will help us win. I've bought into that. Jameel has bought into that and we believe we have 10 guys who have come in just for this window and have bought into that as well."
Save for the loss in Mexico, it's worked every time so far.
Unlike other national teams where the players are competing for their chance to play in China next year, Hearns and his teammates know that their job is securing a slot for the marquee NBA stars.
And he's good with that.
The fact is that we know we are the "JV guys" qualifying the "Varsity guys" to go and play, but we still recognize the importance of that. - Reggie Hearn
He is comfortable that their contribution to the effort is appreciated. "Coach Popovich himself always shows up for these windows to encourage us and tell us how important it is what we're doing. I think that Coach Van Gundy and everyone in the USA Basketball organization encourages us, lifts us up, because we do recognize that without the JV's, there is no Varsity going to the (World Championship).
"All of us who are playing right now would like the chance to play in the World Cup or play in the Olympics but the fact that you get to wear USA across your chest, I dreamed about that as a kid but even then, I didn't think it was a dream that was achievable."
"Around that time, you had the '92 Dream Team, which was the year after I was born. Four years later, you had some of the same guys coming back and they're the best players in the world. To be able to don the red, white and blue just like the same way that they did is an honor and a privilege in and of itself."