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Trio looks toward USA tryouts

Three members of the Virginia men's basketball program are among 16 finalists for the 1999 USA Basketball Men's Junior World Championship Team. Second-years Adam Hall and Chris Williams and incoming recruit Travis Watson continue the tryout process this weekend.

Training camp begins Saturday at Arizona State University and will run through July 11. As the camp draws near completion, the final 12-man roster will be announced. The Junior World Championship team will compete in the FIBA Men's Junior Championship in Lisbon, Portugal from July 15-25.

The first cut for the squad was made at the end of May. The 16 finalists were selected from a pool of 55 at the end of three days of trials at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Arizona State coach Rob Evans is the head coach of the team. Penn State's Jerry Dunn and Wake Forest's Dave Odom assist him on the bench.

Only one other ACC basketball member was among the 16 finalists. Maryland recruit Steve Blake, who was Watson's high school teammate, will also tryout for the team at the camp. Georgia Tech's Tony Akins, incoming Cav freshman Majestic Mapp and North Carolina recruit Jason Parker did not make the first cut.

Hall looks to play for USA basketball for the second straight year. He played for the Junior World Championship Qualifying Team last summer that won the gold medal in the Dominican Republic.

"It's much better competition overall this year," Hall said. "There is a different coach and a different style of play."

Hall averaged 10.8 points-per-game as a freshman for Virginia last season. The Katy, Texas native averaged 27 minutes a game, while placing second on the Cav team in steals; Hall compiled 49 steals on the year.

Williams attempts to make the team for the first time in his career. Williams, the ACC Rookie of the Year, said that the trials and USA basketball provides tough competition and valuable experience.

"It's exciting to go out there and play with good talent," he said. "You know that you're playing against the best talent."

As a freshman for the Cavaliers, Williams posted averages of 16.8 ppg and 7.5 rebounds-per-game. He led the team in field-goal percentage at 51.2 percent. The Birmingham, Ala., native started all but two of Virginia's games last season.

Watson, a product of Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va. has yet to play a game for the Cavs. He is also vying for his first appearance on the Junior World Championship Team. Hall said Watson should fit in well with the Cavaliers next season.

"He's going to fit in real well," Hall said. "He runs the court well."

The experience the trio gains by trying out for USA basketball should benefit the Virginia program whether they make the 12-man roster or not. By competing against the nation's most talented players, they will improve their skills regardless.

Said Williams: "Doing well against the best talent gives you the confidence that you can play against talented people"