Former Illini basketball player to participate in Beijing Olympics

By Jeremy Werner

Former Illini Deron Williams was one of 12 players named to the USA Basketball team to represent the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Williams will be the first Illinois basketball player to participate in the Olympics.

Williams was selected from a field of 33 players by the USA Basketball Executive Committee.

Others named to the Olympic team were: Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets); Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz); Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors); Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers); Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic); LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers); Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks); Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets); Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons); Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks); and Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat).

“The 12 players selected have incredible talent, and more importantly, we think this team has excellent leadership; great versatility and balance; and very good chemistry which are critical parts in building a great team,” said Jerry Colangelo, director of USA Basketball and UI graduate, in a press release. “I believe this team is a team all Americans can and will be proud of.”

Duke University coach Mike Krzyzewski will coach the U.S. team in the Summer Games which run from Aug. 8-24.

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    Williams helped the Team USA qualify for the 2008 Games when he earned a gold medal on the U.S. team in the FIBA Americas Championship 2007.

    The former First Team All-Big Ten player is a budding star in the NBA. Williams averaged 18.8 points and 10.5 assists per game for Utah during the 2007-08 season on his way to being named to the All-NBA Second Team.

    The U.S. will begin preliminary round play against host China on Aug. 10. Team USA hopes to reclaim its international dominance after finishing a disappointing third at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

    The U.S. had taken the gold medal in the previous three Olympic Games (2000, 1996 and 1992). Since 1992, professional basketball players, including NBA players, have been able to participate in the Olympics.