Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland said on Friday night he’s “honored” to be called up to the USA Basketball senior roster for pre-Olympic exhibition games.
“It’s always been a childhood dream putting on a USA jersey, just having ‘USA’ across your chest,” he said on a Zoom media session on Thursday. “It’s a great experience. I’m really honored to be promoted to the team to play in the exhibition games and I’m really excited.”
“Like I said, it’s always been a honor just putting that jersey on, having that red, blue and white. It’s pretty cool just getting invited to the Select team and now getting promoted to the exhibition games. I’m super, super excited. I’m super honored and happy to be here.”
According to Garland, the experience in Las Vegas has been all positive. He said he’s enjoyed being around players he’s grown up with (including Spurs forward Keldon Johnson, who was also called up to the Select Team) and playing against some of the best players in the world. For instance: one of the players he’s spent time guarding in practice is Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard. With the Select Team, he’s been coached by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Part of the experience also includes having teammate Kevin Love on the opposite side, but also being coached by legendary Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich in practices and in the upcoming games.
“Just getting a call-up and just having Coach Pop as a coach, it’s a honor,” Garland said. “He’s a Hall of Famer. And then just having to listen to what he has to tell me, I’m just going to take that and try and soak all of this stuff in and just try to get better as a basketball player.”
The men’s team has its first exhibition game on July 10 against Nigeria and will play five games between the 10th and July 18. It’s unclear how many minutes Garland will get or how many games he will be on the team for. It could depend on when the NBA Finals ends and Suns guard Devin Booker and Bucks guard Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday become available and take the spots they’ve already claimed. According to Garland, one of the people that notified him that he was called up with Cavs general manager Koby Altman.
Regardless, Garland says this experience has been worth it and it was a “no-brainer” for him to take the call-up for the national team.
“This is a big summer for me,” he said. “I’ve been working all summer and then USA Basketball... this is a great experience. It’s just like another stepping stone, another milestone for me, so just got to keep pushing, got to keep working and looking forward to year three.”