By Myron Medcalf
Gophers sophomore center Ralph Sampson III has a great opportunity that could have an effect on his professional future. Sampson, who averaged 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds last season, is currently trying out for a spot on USA Basketball’s U19 squad with 16 other talented youngsters in Colorado Springs, Colo. The tryouts end Thursday.
For Sampson, it’s a chance to measure himself against other young talents from around the country, he said Tuesday night via phone. And with that come thoughts of what it might take to make it to the NBA.
Sampson said leaving Minnesota prior to his senior year is something he’s pondered, but he understands that entering the draft as an underclassman has “disadvantages and advantages” and that leaving after his senior season would also involve pros and cons.
Sampson said he knows making a national team could help raise his stock.
“It’s definitely a positive,” Sampson said about the opportunity to try out for the national squad. “It’s helping my chances of advancing to the next level.”
I covered a 2004 USA Basketball U21 tryout in New Jersey. NBA scouts lined the gym. At the very least, Sampson, especially if he makes the squad, will have an opportunity to showcase his game for key players at the next level. So a strong outing this week could mean a lot for his future.
The 6-11 Sampson told me Tuesday night that he enjoyed his first round of scrimmages on Day 1 of the tryout. A USA Basketball committee will select 12 players who will travel to New Zealand for the FIBA championships later this month.
“I’ve done pretty well so far,” he said. “There’s always room for improvement.” The son of former NBA/NCAA standout Ralph Sampson Jr. said it “would be an honor” to compete for a national team.
Sampson said he’s spent the summer rebuilding his body. At the end of last season, Sampson weighed 227 pounds on a good day. He said he’s added nearly 20 pounds to his frame since then and now carries 244 pounds. Sampson said he’s also getting more comfortable with his post game, a key for a Gophers team that fell to Texas in the NCAA tournament last season, after the Longhorns dominated Minnesota in the paint.