Big East to represent Team USA at 2019 Pan Am Games

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The Big East Conference will represent USA Basketball for the 2019 Pan American Games, beating out the other Power Five conferences for the honor.

Instead of bringing players together from across the country, officials from the NCAA and the national governing body decided to designate one Division I conference to represent the United States at the tournament traditionally held the year before the Summer Olympics.

After reviewing bids from all the major conferences, the Big East was announced as the choice to compete at the Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru, Aug. 6-10.

“There’s nothing like listening to the national anthem in another country,” said Providence’s Ed Cooley, who will coach the team. “You get goosebumps.”

Speaking at PC’s on-campus practice facility, which will serve as the training site for the 12-player USA squad to be selected later, Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman said the decision was a tribute to the conference that rebranded itself as a 10-team basketball league in 2013.

Since then, the Big East has captured two national championships with Villanova in 2016 and 2018.

“I applaud the NCAA for thinking outside the box and believing this would be an interesting way to bring schools from one conference together,” Ackerman said. “It was a great day for us when we got that phone call from the NCAA. From our standpoint, we’re really proud to be chosen. We see this as a great responsibility as well as a great honor.”

Officials hope that each Big East school will be represented on the team that will face other countries using pro players in an attempt to qualify for the Olympics.

Now in his eighth season with the Friars, Cooley spent 2013-15 as an assistant coach for USA Basketball, including a gold medal in the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in 2015.

The United States hasn’t won the Pan Am Games in basketball since the 1983 squad featured North Carolina sophomore Michael Jordan.