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Jerry Colangelo explains why USA Basketball wanted Kyle Kuzma

Jerry Colangelo, the director of USA basketball, says the national team really liked the way that Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma has improved since the draft, as well as his “shooting,” “toughness” and other qualities.

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Graphic via Tony Huynh / Silver Screen and Roll

Team USA is going for a three-peat, so they’re bringing in a Laker.

Kyle Kuzma was officially confirmed as one of the 20 training camp invites for USA Basketball this summer after rumors surfaced last week. Team USA is preparing for the FIBA World Cup in August, which will serve as a qualifier for next year’s Summer Olympics. The United States has won the last two FIBA world championships (before it was rebranded as the World Cup) and is undefeated in international competition since 2006.

Kuzma is among the younger invites in terms of NBA experience. Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell are the other two third-year players in the pool, which will have to be cut down to 12 for the tournament. Kuzma and Mitchell are the lone players who have no previous Team USA experience.

Kuzma averaged 18.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game in his second season. The Laker fan favorite improved his ball-handling, passing, and defensive effort as a sophomore, something that caught the eye of Team USA director Jerry Colangelo.

Miles Simon, who has been an assistant coach in Los Angeles for the entirety of Kuzma’s career and has worked with him on player development, seconded Colangelo’s compliments about Kuzma’s work ethic.

The USA generally has an advantage over other international teams because of its athleticism on the wing and its superior depth at that position. Kuzma functioned mostly as a big last season, but he has shown the ability to play on the perimeter and toggle between both forward spots, making him an ideal candidate for international play. He also loves to play in transition, which is another hallmark of the U.S. national team.

With LeBron James sitting out this summer from the national team due to other commitments, it also certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a Laker representing Team USA in China for marketing purposes.

However, despite a sound endorsement from Colangelo, Kuzma faces an uphill battle to make the roster. There are 11 former All-Stars in camp, even if Kuzma’s former teammate Brook Lopez and fellow camp invitee Paul Millsap are no longer in their prime. There are also other meaningful competitors at the forward spot, including Tobias Harris, PJ Tucker, and Harrison Barnes.

But regardless of if Kuzma makes the final team, he should definitely benefit from the experience of being at camp under head coach Gregg Popovich and assistants Steve Kerr and Lloyd Pierce. For someone who works as hard as Kuzma, that opportunity to learn under the tutelage of two of the best coaches in the world and a rising star in Pierce won’t go wasted.

Kuzma’s NBA career hasn’t resulted in the type of team success he would have hoped for to this point, but perhaps a summer with USA Basketball will enable him to bring some winning ways to Los Angeles.

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