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Four Blue Devils selected to national basketball teams in preparation for Olympics

Tatum will make his Olympic debut this summer in Tokyo.
Tatum will make his Olympic debut this summer in Tokyo.

Former Duke men’s basketball standout Jayson Tatum has been selected to the U.S. men’s basketball team for the upcoming Tokyo Games.

The Boston Celtics’ forward averaged 26.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game during the 2020-21 campaign in which his team fell to Brooklyn in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The two-time All-Star has cemented himself as one of the top young players and a superstar in the league, with a career mark of 19.4 points per game.

Tatum, a 23-year-old St. Louis native, joins a star-studded 12-man roster including Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard as the Gregg Popovich-coached team aims for a fourth straight Olympic gold.

He also becomes the seventh Duke men’s basketball player to represent Team USA at the Olympics, joining Jeff Mullins (1964), Tate Armstrong (1976), Christian Laettner (1992), Grant Hill (1996), Carlos Boozer (2004 and 2008) and Kyrie Irving (2016).

Irving has notably decided against participating in this year’s event due to a knee injury he sustained June 13, while Zion Williamson, Mason Plumlee and Brandon Ingram were finalists who did not make the final cut.

2015 NCAA national champion Jahlil Okafor will be playing for Nigeria, where his grandfather is from. The Detroit Pistons center will be playing alongside a Nigerian roster full of NBA talent as the top African squad aims for its first-ever Olympic medal in basketball at the Tokyo Games. Nigeria faces Team USA July 10 in Las Vegas as part of an Olympics tune-up exhibition series. 

The opening ceremony will be held on Friday, July 23, 2021, postponed from July 2020.

R.J. Barrett, who at one point owned the “Maple Mamba” moniker, will be representing his native Canada in Olympic qualifying. The Mississauga, Ontario native and New York Knicks wing hopes to bring the Canadian team to its first Olympics since the Sydney Games in 2000. Barrett will have to help his team to a first or second-place finish in group play against Greece and China and then win a four-team playoff to qualify. That tournament begins Tuesday, June 29.

Las Vegas Aces guard Chelsea Gray joins the U.S. women’s team. Read the full story here.

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