Marcus Smart named to USA Select Team for second time
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CHICAGO — Celtics guard Marcus Smart spent a part of his summer two years ago on the USA Select Team, a group of hopefuls who scrimmaged against the National Team.
USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told the Globe on Thursday that Smart, who just completed his second NBA season, will be invited to join the Select Team for a second time. Team USA will begin training for the 2016 Rio Olympics in July in Las Vegas and Smart is expected to be among the Select members.
"He did well [last time]," Colangelo said. "He's part of the program. We'd like to have him back. He's a good young player."
Smart, 22 also participated on the USA Under-19 and Under-18 teams and Colangelo likes to encourage younger NBA and college players to become part of the Team USA program with Select Team invites.
Smart played 61 games during the regular season, averaging 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 27.3 minutes. He averaged 12 points in the Celtics' first-round playoff series loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Celtics, who own eight picks in next month's draft, including three first-rounders, were busy speaking with draft prospects the past two days. The most notable was a discussion with Cal forward Jaylen Brown, a projected top-10 pick who could be available when the Celtics select.
Boston will find out the position for its first first-round pick at Tuesday's draft lottery. The Celtics have a 46.92 percent chance of landing one of the top three picks.
Brown, a burly, physical guard-forward, was impressed with the Celtics brass.
"It was a great group of guys, I felt comfortable with those guys," Brown said of the group that included president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, assistant general manager Mike Zarren, and coach Brad Stevens. "Danny Ainge and that crew is wonderful."
The Celtics are in search of more offense and Brown believes his rugged style is better suited for the NBA.
"I feel like NBA is more open court, more transition," he said. "You don't get penalized for being physical. I think [my style] is going to be great for the NBA."
NBA teams request interviews with draft prospects but all requests aren't granted. Among those who spoke with the Celtics in the past two days are: Utah center Jakob Poeltl, Kentucky guard Jamal Murray, Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield, Maryland big man Diamond Stone, high school product Thon Maker and Vanderbilt guard Wade Baldwin.
"[It was] awesome," Baldwin said of his meeting with the Celtics. "An amazing group, having Danny Ainge in there. I asked Coach Stevens what was going through his mind when Gordon Hayward took that halfcourt shot [for Butler in the 2010 NCAA title game]."
Methuen native Georges Niang of Iowa State is a four-year player trying to make enough of an impression to get drafted. The Karl Malone Award winner (nation's top power forward) turns 23 next month and is seeking to prove he's ready to help a club next season.
He participated in the drills, measurement and the scrimmage portion of the combine.
"I wanted to get out there and show people that I'm a competitor," he said. "I thought I played solid out there."
Niang wanted to attend Boston College out of The Tilton School in New Hampshire but the staff told him they were out of scholarships. Niang finished his career at Iowa State as the all-time winningest player and the school's second all-time leading scorer.
"Obviously BC was my dream school," he said. "But it happened for the best. I had a great career at Iowa State. It was one that I will cherish forever. What happened with Boston College was with them but that just motivated me."
This year's draft combine has its share of notable absences. Projected top-two pick Ben Simmons of LSU was not present. Fellow top-two prospect Brandon Ingram of Duke only participated in team interviews. Hield, the high-scoring Oklahoma guard, and Maccabi Tel Aviv forward Dragan Bender were also not present for the combine.
Brown and Providence point guard Kris Dunn were the highest-rated prospects to measure and interview with the media. Murray also passed on the combine but interviewed with teams.