Team USA selections validate what Hawks’ G League team is building

College Park Skyhawks player Malik Ellison is playing for Team USA.

Credit: Photo courtesy of the College Park Skyhawks

Credit: Photo courtesy of the College Park Skyhawks

College Park Skyhawks player Malik Ellison is playing for Team USA.

The College Park Skyhawks want their fans to know that there is quality basketball available in their backyard. So, when Team USA tapped four Skyhawks to its FIBA World Cup qualifying roster last month, the team felt validated.

In July, Team USA named DaQuan Jeffries, Langston Galloway, Malik Ellison and Will Davis to its 12-man World Cup team. Headed by former Bulls coach Jim Boylen, Team USA concluded the third window of World Cup qualifying with a win over Cuba. Now Team USA will advance to the second round of the America Qualifiers with a 5-1 overall record.

This month, Team USA named Jeffries, Galloway and Ellison to its roster for this round of qualifiers. The three, along with the remaining nine players, will face Uruguay on Thursday (9 p.m. ET). They will return to action again Monday (8:40 p.m. ET) against Colombia.

“It validates a lot,” Skyhawks general manager Tori Miller said. “Our end goal in College Park, it’s all about staff development and career developments and trying to create a pipeline of talent for the Atlanta Hawks.

“Knowing that we’re bringing in quality guys into the program, from a character standpoint and also from a talent standpoint, because being selected by Team USA, it’s more than talent, right?

“To be able to play for Team USA, you gotta be a high-character young man. So, that’s a testament to our program and our values that we have with guys that we’re bringing into this program and looking to develop. So, we’re very excited about their selections and want to see them continue to grow.”

Jeffries and Galloway boast years of NBA experience. Jeffries played 31 games with the Kings, 13 games with the Rockets and three games with the Grizzlies. Galloway has eight years of experience in the league after playing with the Knicks, Pelicans, Kings, Pistons and Suns. The Nets and Bucks also utilized his services when several players were in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Ellison had his taste of the NBA after he signed a 10-day contract with the Hawks in December, when several players were in the protocols.

The three’s NBA experience played a role in the selection committee’s decision, but Team USA understood that it could capitalize on their background of playing with each other on the Skyhawks.

“Well, they’re really good basketball (players),” said Sean Ford, men’s national team director. “They play well together, and they’ve played before. So, they have experience. Langston has played in two windows. This is his third one. DaQuan had committed to play in November and February, but because of some minor injuries, it didn’t work out. So, we were able to circle back and get him to play in July.

“So, we’re coming back, and it’s much easier when a coach has the same players that were successful two months earlier, and both know the approach. Malik is someone who’s new to us but brings energy, brings athleticism, brings length. Someone that we think can help change the game when he gets out on the court, and so we’re excited to have him.”

For Davis, Ellison, Galloway and Jeffries, it’s a reminder that their hard work and commitment to growing is paying off in more ways than they could imagine.

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to play on Team USA, literally my whole career,” Galloway said. “I’ve been badgering my agent like, ‘Hey, look, just get (me) at least on the practice squad of Team USA or, you know, something along those lines, just to get the opportunity to play.’ Because I didn’t get a chance to play when I was in high school, or college or anything like that. So, I said, ‘Hey, look, let me find a way to get on a team.’”

For any basketball player, the goal is to play the game at the highest level.

So, their selection to Team USA gives them another path to the NBA. Ford mentioned that Team USA gets calls about players all the time and that they are in frequent contact with the 30 NBA teams. He added that it often depends on the timing of when Team USA plays games.

Ellison, Galloway and Jeffries will look to make the most of their experience with Team USA, especially as they make their cases for a spot on a training-camp roster.

That’s why Ellison, who was working out in the gym when he found out about his selection, plans to leave it all on the floor when he competes Thursday and Monday.

“I pride myself especially on the defensive end, I always hang my hat on that end and expect myself to be the best defender in the gym everywhere I go,” Ellison said. “So, I think that’s one of the things that I look forward to showcasing and continuing to show is I’m a high-level defender, one of the best, I believe, in the game of basketball today. So, just to be able to go out there and prove it night in and night out and also a guy that plays with extremely high energy, athleticism, and makes a lot of exciting plays.”

Ellison and Galloway’s approach to the game helped them earn spots on Team USA. The Skyhawks, who ended last season 25-22 on an 11-game win streak, have tried to fill their roster with quality players.

“Obviously, when you’re playing with USA, it’s all about winning and showcasing. I mean, you know, we’re the best of the best and going out there and proving that is really important and very special,” Skyhawks coach Steve Gansey said.

“We try to instill (that) same championship culture, championship-winning attitude, with the Hawks organization and obviously with the College Park team. So, it ties in a lot. I mean, the fact that (Team) USA has guys like Langston, DaQuan, and Malik and Will Davis. I mean, those guys are all just great dudes, and they’re willing to sacrifice points, minutes, shots, whatever needs to be done to try to get the win.”