FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas sophomore-to-be Jonathon Modica has made the first cut and is now a finalist for the 2003 USA Basketball Men’s Junior World Championship Team. Modica, from Smackover, was named to the 2003 Southeastern Conference all-freshman team and to a national 20-player all-freshman squad selected by CollegeInsider.com. UA’s leading scorer (11.5 ppg) and second-leading rebounder (4.5 rpg), he had a pair of 26-point outings this year, at No. 4 Florida and in the win over No. 22 Alabama, and he led the team in scoring seven times. He was in double figures scoring 15 times and had five or more rebounds 13 times. “We are all very proud of the way Jonathon is representing our program and the state,” Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. “He is excelling in a very competitive environment. It’s amazing how far he as come. It’s a credit to him and his work ethic for putting in the time and effort, and for being a player who is willing to learn and get better.” Modica was one of 52 players 19-years-old or younger invited to three days of trials at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 30-June 1. The roster was trimmed to 16 on Sunday. Other finalists include Mohamed Abukar (Rancho Bernardo / Escondido, Calif.); Maurice Ager (Michigan State / Detroit, Mich.); James Augustine (Illinois / Mokena, Ill.); Brandon Bowman (Georgetown / Santa Monica, Calif.); Daniel Brown (Illinois / Maywood, Ill.); Paul Davis (Michigan State / Rochester, Mich.); Ryan Hollins (UCLA / Pasadena, Calif.); Daniel Horton (Michigan / Cedar Hill, Texas); Al Jefferson (Prentiss High School / Prentiss, Miss.); Brian Johnson (Bishop O’Connell High School, Va. / Glenarden, Md.); Kevin Pittsnogle (West Virginia / Martinsburg, W.Va.); J.J. Redick (Duke / Roanoke, Va.); C.J. Watson (Tennessee / Las Vegas, Nev.); Deron Williams (Illinois / The Colony, Texas); and Kennedy Winston (Alabama / Prichard, Ala.). “I had a very good time here, there are a lot of very good athletes here, a lot of very good talent here,” Modica said. “I wanted to go on and advance. I have to thank God for the opportunity and I hope that good things are in store for us, the USA Basketball teams and all the programs across the United States. Coming out of high school, I really didn’t make a name for myself, but I had a pretty good year this year in college. And then being selected to come here, try out, and then getting selected above some of the guys out here, it feels great. It really does, it feels great and I just want to make the state of Arkansas proud and the United States proud.” Five of the finalists, including Abukar, Brown, Horton, Johnson and Williams, were members of last summer’s Junior World Championship Qualifying Team that finished 4-1, earned the bronze medal and qualified the United States for the 2003 FIBA Junior World Championship.
Modica is one of three other finalists with prior USA Basketball experience, including Davis and Redick. All three participated in the 2001 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival.The official 12-member USA junior team will be finalized during the team’s June 24-July 6 training camp which will be held in Dallas, Texas. In preparation for the Junior World Championship, head coach Ernie Kent’s (University of Oregon) squad will participate in the 2003 Global Games that are being conducted in Dallas. Featuring 10 teams, the USA will play five games between June 30-July 5.“He still has some work to do to make the team,” Heath said, “but this experience with the trials will do a lot in letting Jonathon know how he compares with some of the other most talented players across the country. It will also help him become a leader for us next season.”The USA Junior squad will compete July 10-20 in the 2003 FIBA Men’s Junior World Championship Tournament that was recently moved from Malaysia to Thessaloniki, Greece. Featuring 16 junior national teams that qualified last summer, the teams have been placed into four groups of four for preliminary round robin play. The top two teams from each group will advance to the medal quarterfinals, while the remainder of the field will compete for 9th – 16th place. The USA has been placed in Group C, joining China, Nigeria and Slovenia.